Toronto FC narrowing search for next Designated Player, unlikely to bring Benezet back

Bill Manning - Ali Curtis - Greg Vanney - Toronto FC

TORONTO – With Michael Bradley re-signed, attention turns to the other boxes on the Toronto FC checklist.

Getting their captain back in the fold was the first bit of offseason business for Toronto FC. That they were able to do it to make Bradley a TAM player opens up a Designated Player spot that will be filled, as general manager Ali Curtis promised at the end of the 2019 campaign.

When Bradley spoke at BMO Field on Thursday it was notable that neither Curtis, nor head coach Greg Vanney, were in attendance.

“Ali and Greg are in South America right now and this weekend Ali is going to Europe to catch a couple of games,” revealed TFC president Bill Manning. “There are three players in particular that he’s going to meet and watch. Then I’m going to go over [to Europe] the following weekend and we hope to have conclusion of a new DP before we break camp, [if not] earlier.”

With the Bradley deal all but done, Toronto have been focused on filling that roster designation for the past few weeks.

“We went through a list of 20 or so players,” explained Manning. “You find out where they are contractually and their demands. We, for the last two weeks, have been very strong in our DP conversations where we’ve narrowed it down to 3-4 players.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given past comments from the leadership, Toronto are searching for another attacking option.

“Attacking players [wingers, forwards]. A combination of both,” pinpointed Manning. “Guys that have the flexibility to play from the flanks, but also play with Jozy [Altidore] – our head coach likes to be flexible with his systems. Guys that have proven track records of putting the ball in the back of the net and helping their team be more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball.”

Manning also said that in signing Bradley via TAM, it likely spelled the end of Nicolas Benezet’s time with TFC.

Benezet arrived on loan from French club EA Guingamp midsummer to score a crucial equalizing goal in the Eastern Conference Final against Atlanta United FC.

“It would be extremely difficult,” admitted Manning. “Unless he’s willing to come under the salary cap and not TAM.”

Having undergone a significant evolution over the course of the 2019 season, losing Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez while adding Alejandro Pozuelo and Omar Gonzalez, TFC feel they are well-positioned for the upcoming campaign.

“We still have four, five slots to fill, one being the Designated Player,” explained Manning. “The others will be role players. Locking in Michael, a DP, likely one other player and then maybe some guys we’ll promote from within. We’ll see if we can work something out with Juan Agudelo. Overall we feel very good about the roster.”

Toronto selected Agudelo in Stage Two of the 2019 MLS Re-Entry Draft last month.

“Juan is a guy that has performed in this league, he’s a quality player, this season played over 1,900 minutes for New England,” detailed Manning. “If he’s willing to be flexible on his contract demands he’s a guy that could come in and perform a role. Athletic, still 27 years old, it was worth taking a chance and now it comes down to will he be willing to accept our terms.”