Welcome to the latest edition of TFC Republic Weekly, an email newsletter that will land in the inbox of both paid subscribers and free members of TFC Republic every Monday.
This newsletter will look at what's in store over the next seven days for Toronto FC, and also get a glimpse of what to expect at TFC Republic in the coming days.
So, without further ado...
Toronto FC loses to Columbus Crew in pre-season
TFC suffered a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Crew on Saturday in Santa Barbara, California in its second outing of the pre-season.
Ayo Akinola and Alonso Coello scored for the Reds, who split a mini two-game series against Nashville SC in Florida the previous week in their first taste of action during training camp.
Saturday's game wasn't televised or live streamed and neither club went out of their way to even publicize it or share any information about it. That's why details about the contest are so scarce.
TFC will remain in California for the second leg of pre-season where they will play Real Salt Lake (Feb. 14) and Los Angeles FC (Feb. 17) in exhibition matches.
Toronto FC opens the 2024 MLS season on Feb. 25 against FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium.
Herdman says new players are coming in soon
Toronto FC is less than two weeks away from kicking off the MLS regular season, but the team's roster remains a work in progress.
The only off-season additions so far are veteran Honduran midfielder Deybi Flores and top draft pick Tyrese Spicer. Other than that, TFC have pretty much the same roster from last year when they finished last place in MLS and set new franchise records for the fewest wins (four) and points (22) in a single season.
At the moment, 26 Toronto FC players are contractually guaranteed for the 2024 campaign. Keep in mind that the MLS roster limit is 30 players. Teams can only have 18-20 players on their senior team roster (players that count against the salary cap), while slots 21-30 make up the supplemental roster.
Coach John Herdman confirmed last Friday that there are some new players in camp right now, but he declined to provide any names.
"We have trialists at the moment. ... They'll get opportunities in [Saturday's] game, but we'll try to maintain some confidentiality around that to give them their best chance to stay focused on the job at hand. They're younger players [who can] fill in some areas that I'm interested in trying to build some strength in," Herdman offered.
Toronto's coach also said that new signings will be made before the start of the MLS campaign. He explained it's taking time to get deals done because the club wants to make sure it's bringing in the right people and that they're "the absolute right fit," and not simply signed "out of desperation."
"I think we all know Toronto's roster realities; there's something about player movement that's going to be important to help us bring the right faces in... I'm expecting some signings in the next two weeks. I'll assume I'm going to have some in prior to that LAFC game [on Feb. 17]. That would be the mission of the front office to make sure that I can get a game or two [in pre-season] with any new signing," Herdman stated.
"I know the club is working hard and speaking to a few players, and some are closer than others to getting across the line."
Odds and ends
John Herdman confirmed last week that forward Adama Diomande is still working out on his own away from the team during training camp. Diomande, 33, missed most of last season (his first with TFC) due to injuries and was limited to just 166 minutes. Herdman said the Norwegian is working with the ball and ramping things up, but that he isn't quite ready for pre-season minutes. "We're just being precautious with Dio just to make sure he can get into this season and give us a more sustained level of play across more minutes," Herdman stated.
Top draft pick Tyrese Spicer (No. 1 overall in 2024) also remains in a return-to-play program after sustaining a lower-body injury during the 2023 NCAA season. Like Diomande, the MLS rookie is not ready to receive any pre-season minutes. "He'll [see] some minutes in the Salt Lake game, so that will be his first game back," Herdman said.
Important dates to remember
Major League Soccer will have two transfer windows during the 2024 season:
- Primary transfer window: Jan. 31 to April 23
- Secondary transfer window: July 18 to August 14
During these windows MLS clubs can sign a player via a transfer under contract to another team. All in-season trades between MLS clubs must take place during these two windows.
The MLS roster compliance deadline is Feb. 23. That means all teams must be roster and budget compliant (be under the salary cap) by that date.
The roster free deadline for this season is Sept. 13, which means clubs must submit their final 30-man roster for the remainder of the regular season. Teams can't make any player trades or transfer signings after that deadline.
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Stories to look out for at TFC Republic
Veteran centre back Shane O'Neill will have the weight of the world on his shoulders with Toronto FC this season. Not only will he be tasked with helping the Reds to improve on the defensive end, but he's also been asked to step up in a big way after he was named to the club's player leadership group, alongside Italian DPs Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, captain Jonathan Osorio and goalkeeper Sean Johnson. I recently chatted one-on-one with O'Neill about life at TFC under new coach John Herdman, being named the team's leadership group and much more. Look for my feature story later this week.
Other stories that will be published later this week include:
- My "random thoughts" column on Toronto FC.
- A video blog on the current state of affairs at TFC.
- My TFC pre-season notebook piece.
- The latest instalment of the reader mailbag.
- And much more!
TFC Republic mailbag
TFC Republic will feature a regular reader mailbag column where I answer questions from subscribers about Toronto FC and Canadian soccer in general.
(Top photo courtesy of Toronto FC)
TFC Republic has a comments section! At the very bottom of every story, there is a feature where you can post your comments, so be sure to share your thoughts and views.