TORONTO – Toronto FC enjoyed one of the busiest transfer periods in recent memory this offseason, picking up internationals Jermain Defoe, Júlio César and Michael Bradley, Designated Player Gilberto and local and league legend Dwayne De Rosario.
But sitting first in the MLS allocation order, could the Reds be after US international Brek Shea?
The instantly recognizable Stoke City man was transferred from FC Dallas to Stoke City in January 2013, but because Dallas received a transfer fee for Shea, he would be subject to the allocation process upon returning to Major League Soccer. Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen, however, shot down the idea that the 24-year-old American winger is on his way back to MLS.
“Well, I’ll say they’re just rumors,” Nelsen told reporters at Tuesday’s training session. “I’m lucky enough to have a pretty good relationship with his boss. I’d say that before even Brek knows what he’s doing, [Stoke City manager Mark Hughes and I] will probably have that conversation, so we’ll see what we can do.”
Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko also weighed in on Shea, and he was more assertive, saying, "Yeah, 100 percent [we'd be interested]," Bezbatchenko told the Toronto Sun. "I mean, Brek Shea is a dynamic US international. I think you'd take any of these guys seriously."
With all the expensive pieces acquired by Toronto FC during the offseason, one concern about a possible move for Shea was that with three new Designated Players and other signings, perhaps the club could not actually afford Shea under the league's salary budget.
Nelsen, however, has previously said that Toronto have room.
“We’ve got a lot of flexibility,” Nelsen said on March 25. “We’re in a nice little spot. The one thing about it is, whether you use it now or wait to June or wait till something happens, because you need to keep some ammunition in the bank.”
Since that day, Toronto FC have added Canadian international Issey Nakajima-Farran, so it remains to be seen if the club would need to make further moves to accommodate Shea. Another possibility is that Shea could be loaned back to MLS; in that case, only a portion of his salary would count against the salary cap.
Shea has featured in just three matches with Stoke City, each off the bench, and returned early from a lone stint to Barnsley after becoming involved in an incident between a teammate and the club's traveling supporters. Shea did play for the US in their March 5 friendly against Ukraine, his 26th career international appearance.