TORONTO – With the season having ended prematurely, Toronto FC have decisions to make in the coming weeks.
The club reached the final of the Concacaf Champions League in April, only to lose on penalty kicks, but now the defending champions failed to qualify the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Such a turn requires some soul-searching. The players wrapped up their media duties on Monday and will have a week off before returning to training, but general manager Tim Bezbatchenko addressed the mounting personnel issues during Tuesday's end of season press conference.
“I don't think a massive overhaul needs to take place,” said Bezbatchenko. “This team isn't done, this roster isn't done. There is a drive, a collective mentality from this group. They want to go out and compete.”
As with every winter in MLS, there will be changes, but despite this season's struggles, it won't be easy to zero out which players need to go.
“If we want to add players, you have to subtract from the current roster. Tough decisions to make over the next few weeks,” explained Bezbatchenko. “We have 13 guaranteed players, 11 options, two out of contract [including] one player eligible for free agency; two loan options.”
The GM did note there was one major difference from past shuffles.
“It takes something different to build than to sustain,” he said.
While Bezbatchenko pointed to strengthening the defense, Greg Vanney expressed his desire for "depth at our forward position" and "wide players that can hurt the opposition.”
“It will be a priority to sit down with everyone and their representative to talk: something we do every offseason,” said Bezbatchenko. “They've helped build what we've built. It's important we have a conversation, [discuss] their expectations for next year and beyond.”
Altidore expressed uncertainty over his future in recent weeks, but both Bradley and Giovinco downplayed any concerns about entering the final year of their deals.
“My contract has never been a distraction,” stated Bradley. “And it won't be.”
Added Giovinco: “It's their problem, not mine. If I am without contract, I can leave. I'd like to stay here, but it's not only about me.”
Time, however, is always ticking.
“We're planning for next year, but we're not forgetting about 2020, 2021,” said Bezbatchenko. “At some point we will have to make a shift; get younger.”
More immediately, the Reds have to reach permament deals if they wish to keep Auro and Lucas Janson, who are on loan from Sao Paolo and Tigre, respectively. Both have expressed their desire to stay with Toronto.
“We can pick up the transfer options,” said Bezbatchenko. “We're also discussing the possibility of doing new loans. We're looking at it now. Both players have helped our team in different ways. The feedback is positive. We don't have to make a decision until December 1.”