As preseason camp begins for Toronto FC, their roster can be described in one word: incomplete.
Head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley didn’t use that exact descriptor Friday before his team departs for San Diego, Calif., and leg one of their 2023 preparations. But when asked about team needs, the general theme was apparent.
“A goalkeeper, for sure,” Bradley began. “We’ve been in good discussions and I think it’s been clear that that’s an area where we’re going to add players. Still looking for a central defender, again good discussions. Left back, maybe some depth up front.”
The Reds’ comings and goings aren’t nearly as wholesale as before the 2022 season, when Bradley arrived after leading LAFC from 2018-21. But nearly a dozen players from last year’s squad are gone and only a few players have come in – namely retaining midfielder Jonathan Osorio in free agency, signing center back Matt Hedges in free agency and bringing midfielder Victor Vazquez back for a second stint (via the Re-Entry Draft this time).
Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of work ahead for Toronto to get starting-caliber players in the door. Bradley isn’t worried about timing either, in the buildup to Matchday 1 on Feb. 25 at D.C. United (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).
“I think a lot can be done by the start of the season,” Bradley said. “The plan has always been to use this window. Will everything be done? Will it be perfect? Will we still be thinking in the early part of the season what we can do, what happens in the summer?
“We’re working with the idea that we can add enough of the right kind of players, right kind of guys and begin the season with a real clear idea of how we’re going to play and what we’re going to be about.”
One item on the to-do list, Bradley entertained, is adding a third Designated Player alongside Italian international wingers Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi. They arrived last summer from Serie A sides Napoli and Juventus, respectively, but couldn’t spark an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs return for the 2017 league champions.
What still needs fine-tuning, it appears, is exactly how Toronto use their third DP spot. League rules outline if they pursue a Young DP to join Insigne and Bernardeschi (senior DPs), then they’d have three U22 Initiative roster slots to further build out the roster.
“There’s not a DP budget for another player like Lorenzo or Fede,” Bradley said. “So we have to be smart with how we do everything.”
As Toronto’s roster nears its final form in the weeks ahead, Bradley is confident the club's moving closer to its glory days of old. They finished 13th in the Eastern Conference table last season, but have a veteran-laden group that – at least on paper – could accomplish a fair amount.
“We’re going to be a good team,” Bradley said. “We’re going to be able to compete with the best teams.”
Bradley later added: "With the discussions that we’re having and some of the moves that have been made, the foundation that got laid last year, I think the goal is to be a really good team this year."