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 splits pre-season series with Nashville
Italian stars Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne both scored last Friday as Toronto FC played it first match of the pre-season campaign against Nashville SC.
The exhibition series at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida was broken up into two 60 minute contests and both sides made wholesale lineup changes between games.
Toronto won the first contest 2-0 thanks to the Italians, while Forster Ajago scored as Nashville won the second game 1-0.
Bernardeschi opened the scoring by curling a shot into the bottom corner after being set up by Insigne. The former Napoli captain doubled Toronto's lead off a feed from Deandre Kerr. Captain Jonathan Osorio was also in the starting 11 for TFC in the win over Nashville.
While these matches marked Toronto’s first outings of the pre-season, Nashville had already played two exhibition games.
Will Toronto FC be ready for the MLS season?
Toronto FC kicks off the regular season on Feb. 25 away to FC Cincinnati, but the big roster changes that are badly needed have yet to happen.
So far, the only off-season additions have been 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 said last week that "there's good work going on behind the scenes" from the front office and the aim is for new recruits to join the team for the second leg of training camp in California in February.
"They've got some players they're talking to and there's some plans that are underway. .... One thing I'm clear on is going into phase two, which is that Santa Barbara phase ... we really want to have some new additions going into that phase of development," Herdman stated.
"So, this period, I've been pretty comfortable being able to assess the group that we have and really assess them to understand where the gaps are and to see which players are responding to the way that we want to play... It's a two-pronged process. We're assessing the group, and the staff are getting a feel for all of the players in a competitive and tense setting.
"But at the same time the front office is working hard with us to keep track of those targets and if we can bring anyone in by the end of the European transfer window we will. And if we don't, we'll aim to have bodies, new bodies in and as we progress through phase two [of pre-season]."
Odds and ends
Major League Soccer and Liga MX announced last week the format and groups for the 2024 Leagues Cup, a competition featuring all the top tier teams from MLS and Mexico. This year's Leagues Cup, which runs from July 26 to Aug. 25, will decide the three qualifiers for the 2025 Concacaf Champions Cup. Toronto's Leagues Cup group features Liga MX side C.F. Pachuca and the New York Red Bulls. The tournament's full bracket and schedule will be announced in the coming months.
John Herdman revealed last week that forward Adama Diomande joined the first team in Florida after spending the first portion of training camp working out on his own back in Toronto. Diomande, 33, missed most of last season (his first with TFC) due to injuries and was limited to just 166 minutes. Herdman said the hope is that the Norwegian will be available to play in the Reds' pre-season games in California.
TFC's pre-season schedule
Toronto FC returned home last Friday after completing the first portion of its pre-season training camp in Florida.
The Reds will remain in Toronto before heading to Santa Barbara, California on Feb. 8. for the second leg of pre-season. While there TFC will play the Columbus Crew (Feb. 10), 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.
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
Once touted as one of the league’s brightest young forwards, Canadian international Ayo Akinola has only scored twice in his last 40 MLS games for Toronto, and he hasn't found the back of the net since 2022. A loan spell with the San Jose Earthquakes last season didn't light a spark under Akinola, who is going into the final year of his current contract with Toronto FC. I recently chatted one-on-one with Akinola about his experiences in San Jose, the upcoming 2024 MLS season and how he hasn't lived up to expectations the last two seasons. Look for my feature story in the coming days.
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 our "TFC flashback" history series.
- 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.