TFC Republic Weekly: February 19-25

After a lengthy winter, Toronto FC kicks off its 2024 MLS regular season on Sunday away to FC Cincinnati.

TFC Republic Weekly: February 19-25

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...

Free preview of TFC Republic this week

TFC Republic will be offering a free trial this entire week.

What that means is every piece of new content published on the website from today going forward will come out from behind the paywall and be available to everyone to read and enjoy. The free preview will end at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25.

This is the ideal time to subscribe to TFC Republic, as we will look ahead to the 2024 MLS campaign over the next seven days, and then provide in-depth coverage of the club from every possible angle all season long. If you’ve ever been on the fence about purchasing a subscription, now is your chance to check out the website during this week's free preview and see what you've been missing.

I’m sure you’ll find at the end of the free trial that TFC Republic provides thoughtful and nuanced analysis of all things Toronto FC, and that you'll be inclined to purchase a subscription at one of two very affordable rates. A monthly subscription costs just $8, while a yearly subscription is $50 (a savings of 48%).

You can subscribe to TFC Republic by CLICKING HERE, or by clicking on the subscribe button on the top right of the home page.

Reader mailbag: Is it time to start questioning Toronto FC GM Jason Hernandez?
Whether Hernandez can turn around the club’s fortunes remains to be seen. But he does deserve more time to prove himself.

Reds role into new season with same roster

After a lengthy winter, Toronto FC kicks off its 2024 MLS regular season on Sunday away to FC Cincinnati. When the Reds take to the pitch at TQL Stadium it'll be with largely the same roster as last season when they finished dead last in the overall league table and set franchise records for fewest wins (four) and points (22) in a single MLS campaign.

A TFC side that only scored 26 goals in 2023 (tied for worst in MLS) and conceded 59 times (second worst) has yet to make major upgrades this off-season. The only squad additions have been veteran Honduran midfielder Deybi Flores and top draft pick Tyrese Spicer.  

At the moment, 26 Toronto FC players are contractually guaranteed for 2024. 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 (players who don't count against the cap). 

John Herdman revealed last week that Toronto was recently very close to signing one of its targets, but that the deal fell through at the last second due to a managerial change at the player's club. Herdman went on to say he was still hopeful of getting "a couple of new faces" in time for the start of the MLS season.

"It's getting close. There is a lot of negotiating going on," Herdman revealed. 

He added: "The front office has been lining players up and now it's just getting the deals done. As I'm learning it's never done until that [contract] ink is wet and [the player] is on the airplane. It's a tricky process." 

One player who looks to be coming is veteran defender Kevin Long. Sources tell TFC Republic that Toronto has been negotiating to sign the Irish centre-back Kevin Long from Birmingham City and that a deal could get done this week.

Long, 33, has made 40 appearances at Birmingham over the last two seasons and has 17 caps for the Republic of Ireland. Before Birmingham, Long spent 13 years with Burnley where he featured for the Clarets in the Championship and the Premier League.

The Birmingham Mail first reported that TFC was close to signing Long.

Help shape TFC Republic’s coverage of Toronto FC in 2024
We want to hear from our loyal readers about what changes and improvements you’d like to see the website make this season.

TFC vs. FC Cincinnati on Sunday

This weekend's season opener is the first game between Toronto FC and FC Cincinnati since the Reds dropped a 3-2 decision to the Ohio-based club on Sept. 20, 2023, at BMO Field. 

Jonathan Osorio scored a first-half brace, but Aaron Boupendza netted the winner in the 72nd minute as the Orange and Black secured the Supporters’ Shield for the first time in club history. TFC defender Aimé Mabika admitted to reporters after the game that it hurt watching Cincinnati's players party on the BMO Field pitch after the final whistle sounded.  

“It’s definitely not nice to see someone celebrate on your field,” Mabika said.  

Earlier in the 2023 season, Cincinnati blanked Toronto 3-0 at TQL Stadium in Bob Bradley's second last game in charge before being fired. 

The reigning regular season champions enter this weekend on a bit of a hot streak having won their final three matches of the pre-season after suffering a 2-1 loss to Austin FC on Jan. 26. But they also have a midweek Concacaf Champions Cup game on Thursday in Jamaica vs. Cavalier F.C., so it'll be interesting to see what kind of line-up coach Pat Noonan will field and how much he'll rotate his squad ahead of the MLS season opener on the weekend. 

Cincinnati leads the all-time regular season series against Toronto with six wins (no draws) in 10 meetings. The Orange and Blue have won six of the last seven games and four in a row. 

Shane O’Neill on TFC’s leadership group: ‘It just sort of happened’
In this 1-on-1 interview, O’Neill talks about life at Toronto FC under John Herdman, being named to the player leadership group and more.

CanWNT kicks off Concacaf W Gold Cup

The 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup marks the beginning of a new era for the Canadian women's team.  

The Gold Cup, scheduled from Feb. 20 to March 10, will be the first competition for Canada since the international retirement of iconic captain Christine Sinclair. The tournament also kicks off the team's preparation for this summer’s Paris Olympics where it will defend its gold medal and seek to reach the podium for a fourth consecutive time.   

Coach Bev Priestman recently announced her 23-player squad for the Gold Cup, which features several familiar names, including midfielder Jessie Fleming, goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, defenders Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence, midfielder Quinn, and forwards Adriana Leon and Nichelle Prince.   

The Canadians will compete in Group C at the Gold Cup and will play all of its group stage matches in Houston. The reigning Olympic champions face El Salvador on Feb. 22, Paraguay on Feb. 25 and Costa Rica on Feb. 28. The top two nations in each of the three round robin groups - as well as the two-best third place teams overall - advance to the knockout round.   

Canada is No. 10 in the current FIFA rankings, well ahead of Costa Rica (No. 43), Paraguay (No. 50) and El Salvador (No. 104), so the expectation is that it should easily qualify for the quarter-finals. 

TFC Talk: Reds’ roster upgrades can’t happen soon enough
In the latest video blog, I discuss the current state of affairs with Toronto FC ahead of the start of the MLS season on Feb. 25.

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 under contract to another team via a transfer. All in-season trades between MLS clubs must also 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 freeze 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.

Stories to look out for at TFC Republic

Still only 19, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty has been considered one of Toronto FC's brightest prospects ever since making his debut under Greg Vanney in 2020. Only 16 at the time, Rutty became the youngest player to ever play for the team when he came on as a substitute against the Philadelphia Union. Rutty seemed to have the world by his feet, but he hasn't quite broken out in MLS since making his professional debut and there is a sense that the best has yet to come from the youngster. What does John Herdman expect from the teenager this coming season? Look for my feature story later this week.  

Other stories that will be published later this week include:       

  • Our feature story on Toronto FC's potential starting 11 and depth options at each position this season. 
  • Our feature examining the big questions facing the Reds in 2024. 
  • Our feature looking at the five TFC players who have to step up in 2024. 
  • In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Toronto's season opener away to FC Cincinnati. 
  • In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Canada's matches vs. El Salvador and Paraguay at the Concacaf W Gold Cup. 
  • The debut of a new TFC podcast.  
  • 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.

I'll answer the best questions submitted to me by TFC Republic readers, so feel free to drop me an email at You can also reach out to me via Twitter.

(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.