TFC Republic Weekly: January 29-February 4

The 2024 MLS season kicks off in less than a month, but Toronto FC still has a lot of work to do on upgrading its roster.

TFC Republic Weekly: January 29-February 4

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...

Jonathan Osorio named Toronto FC captain

Toronto FC announced Canadian international Jonathan Osorio as its new captain last week.

Osorio, a 31-year-old from Toronto, becomes the eighth player in TFC history to wear the captain's armband. The team had been without a captain since Michael Bradley retired at the end of last season.

Other former captains include Canadian internationals Jim Brennan and Dwayne De Rosario, Maicon Santos, Torsten Frings, Darren O'Dea and Steven Caldwell. 

"Jonathan is a very special person at this club. You only have to see his connection with kitchen staff, the equipment people, down to the kids at the [youth] academy who look up to him as that player that went all the way for the club to a championship. He's waited patiently, he's built the experiences and he's ready. ... He's ready to take on this big responsibility and he's excited for it," John Herdman said. 

Osorio will enter the 2024 MLS season – his twelfth campaign with the Reds – as the club’s all-time leader in appearances (341) across all competitions. The veteran midfielder has scored 62 goals and tallied 35 assists since making his debut for TFC in 2013 and has won nine trophies, including an MLS Cup (2017), a Supporters’ Shield (2017) and four Canadian Championships (2016, 2017, 2018, 2020). He is also the last remaining member of the 2017 treble winning side who is still an active player for TFC. 

Osorio's 62 goals rank third all-time in club history, behind only Sebastian Giovinco (83) and Jozy Altidore (79). 

The Canadian international was recently named a member of TFC's player leadership group, alongside Italian DPs Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, goalkeeper Sean Johnson and defender Shane O'Neill. 

Herdman on roster rebuild: More patience required

At the moment, 26 TFC players are contractually guaranteed for the 2024 season.  

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. GM Jason Hernandez is going to have to move some players out this off-season if he wants to rebuild the roster and make TFC a competitive side in 2024.   

Earlier this month, Herdman described TFC's roster rebuild as "a work in progress."   

TFC's coach doubled down on that sentiment last week, reiterating that it's going to take time to bring in new faces ahead of the start of the regular season on Feb. 25 when his side visits FC Cincinnati.  

“The process is slow. I mean that goes without saying, but at the same time it's about taking our time, being diligent, making sure that the right people come in the door. I think the front office team is working closely with the technical team on just making sure that the right targets come in,” Herdman said.  

Toronto's coach revealed that the club had identified players they were interested in, but it couldn't come to terms with any of them on deals.  

"There are targets we've looked at that we've been close to or keen on and haven't been able to get it over the line. This is normal in the transfer window. We've just got to show some patience here and hopefully the patience allows us to bring the right people in," Herdman stated. 

Odds and ends

TFC 2 defender Lazar Stefanovic, 17, is down in Florida training with Toronto FC. Stefanovic made his senior team debut and played in three games last summer while on loan from TFC 2.

John Herdman confirmed last week that forward Adama Diomande was in Toronto working out on his own with the hope of being integrated into first team training very soon. Diomande, 33, missed most of last season (his first with TFC) due to injuries and was limited to just 166 minutes.

Top draft pick Tyrese Spicer (No. 1 overall in 2024) is with TFC in Florida but was in a return-to-play program after sustaining a lower-body injury during the 2023 NCAA season. "It’s nothing that we're concerned about," Herdman said.

Herdman also confirmed that former Canadian international Paul Stalteri is not a part of his coaching staff. Stalteri previously served as an assistant under Bob Bradley and his status with TFC had been up in the air since the tail end of last season.

TFC's pre-season schedule

TFC departed for Palm Beach, Florida on Jan. 16 and will train down there for the first leg of training camp. While in Florida, the Reds will play an exhibition match against Nashville SC on Feb. 2.  

For now, John Herdman remains focused on the players' physical fitness, and he'll use the Nashville contest as a way to measure his team's progress in that specific area. 

“[Team] selection and tactics will start to come into play in that second phase of pre-season. … That’s where we'll really look to impose our identity and learn about how we're able to apply that against [some of] the top teams in MLS. I think this first game against Nashville, we've been clear. We'll prioritize physical outcomes first and we will prioritize assessment of key positions so people will get opportunities to show themselves,” Herdman explained. 

Herdman confirmed there'll be a TFC intra-squad match before the team plays Nashville. 

"That's the first step of assessment for players [to] make sure that we steadily build the match fitness into Nashville, and then slowly building into Columbus and hopefully peaking at the end with a game against LAFC," Herdman said. 

TFC returns to Toronto after the Nashville match 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). 

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.



Stories to look out for at TFC Republic

Last season was an eventful one for Kosi Thompson. The Canadian midfielder started the year with Toronto FC but then received his first taste of European club football when he went on loan to Norwegian club Lillestrøm SK for several months. Now the 21-year-old native of Toronto is back with his hometown club after Lillestrøm declined its option to sign him on a permanent basis. I recently chatted one-on-one with Thompson about his experiences in Norway and the upcoming 2024 MLS season. 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.
  • An update from John Herdman from pre-season camp in Florida.
  • My feature on Jason de Vos and Peter Galindo being added to Herdman's staff.
  • 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.

I'll answer the best questions submitted to me by TFC Republic readers, so feel free to drop me an email at jmo1897@gmail.com. You can also reach out to me via Twitter.

(Top photo courtesy of Toronto FC)


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