In a way, you have to hand it to Toronto FC. The club is audacious. Despite being arguably the least successful first division club in the world (literally – find us a worse one), it has made offers for both Carlos Tevez and Diego Forlan this summer.
Legitimate offers for big money. The information comes from too many credible sources and is just too absurd to have been made up.
There is the silly season and then there is the certifiably insane season.
The Reds were, obviously, laughed out of the room in both cases. It’s unclear what the club could offer to two players that are both looking to be in Brazil next year and, in Tevez’ case, still with several good years left before they’d be looking to come to America.
What may not be as obvious is that it’s also unclear what TFC would have gained from bringing in either of the two players.
On the surface, the fact that it’s a blessing that the Reds are too much of a mess to attract world class players might seem ironic. However, those types of players would be wasted on TFC in its current set-up.
Just this past off-season, Torsten Frings was gently shown the door because his cap hit was too high. Toronto had all kinds of holes in its line-up and it was suggested that it would be too difficult to fill them with that type of salary burden.
Eric Hassli and, later, Darren O’Dea were moved for the same reason. Their salary was deemed too high in a tight salary cap league.
So, if Toronto is constantly dropping salary money—and constantly making reference to the salary mismanagement of the previous management—why would they start down the same road of paying large portions of the cap to a single player?
That question is especially pertinent when you consider that TFC has made all kinds of noise about the need to stay young in its current rebuild.
It’s at this point that one cannot ignore that the big signing rumours coincided with the arrival of new MLSE president Tim Leiweke. Famously, Leiweke bought David Beckham to MLS and he’s been upfront about his desire to bring a similar player to Toronto.
He went so far to suggest that Toronto has self-handicapped itself by bring in what he called second tier DPs. Leiweke said that Toronto was acting like a small market club rather than a team based in the fourth largest city in North America.
It’s unclear whether Leiweke has consulted with TFC GM Kevin Payne about his feelings on DPs. If he has and Payne has given his blessing to the strategy then it would represent a radical change in thinking. If that’s the case it would also appear that the manager, Ryan Nelsen, hasn’t been included in the conversation.
Nelsen has consistently talked about the need to get the team’s core sorted out before adding a marquee signing. With just two wins on the year, it would appear that we are still a ways off from TFC being sorted.
Therein lies the most concerning thing of all about these offers. From the outside it looks like the president is acting on his own to bring in a player that the manager doesn’t necessarily want, while the GM straddles the middle while talking out of both sides of his month.
It’s reminiscent of the final days of the Aron Winter v Paul Mariner power-struggle. Not everyone in the club appears to be on the same page.
The truth is that no one knows whether bringing in a big name right now would help. Although four of the six MLS Cups won since the DP rule was brought in have gone to teams without a DP, it can be argued that the 2011-12 LA Galaxy were the best MLS club of all-time. The Galaxy had three DPs, including Beckham himself.
There is more than one way to build a MLS team.
However, what’s clear is that the wrong way to run a team is to have conflicting philosophies at the top. We’ve seen it in Toronto with Winter and Mariner and Leiweke has seen it as well while he was in LA. The Galaxy only saw success once before Alexei Lalas, who was never fully on board with the DP plan, was replaced.
Hopefully Leiweke learned a lesson from that experience, but current evidence in Toronto suggests that he may not have.