TORONTO – It's been quiet in Toronto this offseason.
Not from Toronto FC's perspective. After three progressive off-seasons of being hailed as transfer champions, the 2016 MLS Cup runners-up had the luxury of taking a different tack this year and not going for a splashy move unless it's too good to pass up.
"We don't feel like it's mandatory," manager Greg Vanney said on Wednesday, with his club back in town for a week between preseason trips to Los Angeles and Florida. "If we find the right guy, in the right position, in the right scenario, we'll push hard to make a move. [Otherwise], we can start the season, see how things go, and leave ourselves some flexibility.”
There have been just three first team additions to date: defender Chris Mavinga, Homegrown midfielder Sergio Camargo and center back Brandon Aubrey, who was selected in the 2017 SuperDraft. Four more players were plucked from the Supplemental Draft, but they appear more destined to spend time in USL with TFC II.
Most of the effort was spent keeping key contributors -- or in one case, bringing a starter back after a brief absence.
Goalkeeper Clint Irwin was re-acquired from Atlanta United FC and signed to an extended contract after being plucked away in the Expansion Draft while the veteran presence of Benoit Cheyrou was retained for 2017 and super-sub Tosaint Ricketts also signed an extended deal.
That stands in marked contrast to what happened in the two previous seasons.
In 2014, the club added Michael Bradley, Justin Morrow, Gilberto, and Jermain Defoe (the latter two since departed back to their native countries), while the following year saw Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore landed. This past offseason TFC brought in valuable MLS experience in Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour, Will Johnson -- now with Orlando City SC -- and Irwin.
But if the big moves aren't there going into the 2017 season, the drive to be MLS's first Canadian champion is.
"Not going through too much change is good," Vanney said, but added:
"It's important everybody knows they're fortunate to be here. They have to continue working the way they have, push harder, so we can be even more successful. There's always an effort to get better; at any point, if guys aren't doing what they're supposed to, things change.”
Ricketts echoed his manager's words.
“The longer a core group is together the better it is for the team and the organization,” he said. “The guys are still hungry. We were short of the championship. Everyone here wants it; there's no lack of motivation.
“You can never be perfect. We need to continue working on our tactics, our team identity, building off strengths. We're a deadly team, we can prove that in the season.”