TORONTO – While recent reports have linked Toronto FC to Uruguayan star Diego Forlan, Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen has his eye on several players.
Nelsen isn’t saying if Forlan is one of them. But it seems clear that the rookie coach would not be upset if owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment dug deep into its wallet and the 34-year-old Uruguayan walked through the door.
The TFC ownership is not short on ambition and new CEO Tim Leiweke has talked of reached for the soccer stars. Nelsen insists, however, that it makes little sense bringing in a marquee name if the team, currently sporting a 2-8-7 record, cannot support him properly.
“Can our team handle a player of that calibre?” he asked Wednesday. “Because one player is not going to come in and all of a sudden you’re going to win the league. It doesn’t happen like that.
“We have to get the squad right, the squad balanced right, the balance of the salary cap right. Competition between players. We’ve got to get everything sorted out. The foundation of the club’s got to be right and that’s been the problem with this club so many years.
“They never had it right. They’ve never had the salary cap right. They’ve never had the depth right. And we’ve got to go through some growing pains before we get there. Once we get that right, once we get a nice balanced squad where the salary cap’s balanced as well. You’ve got young players with experienced players. Then players of that calibre, you don’t mind spending that money because there’s a foundation.”
Toronto is not there yet. So short of the planets aligning, don’t expect Forlan just yet.
Nelsen, who spoke highly of Forlan’s skills while noting he is under contract to a team in Brazil, is looking at adding two or three players in the transfer window that just opened. The club’s salary cap issues will be eased next season, with contracts expiring, allowing the management to redistribute wages.
“You look at anybody’s salary cap, you’ve got to spend wisely,” Nelson said. “You can’t spend a certain amount of money on certain positions. That hasn’t really been adhered to at Toronto. It seems to have been just kind of spending for the sake of spending. So we’ve got to try and have a balance.”
The 2013 league salary cap is US$2.95 million, which essentially covers 20 players. According to the MLS Players Union, TFC has $766,250 tied up in fullbacks Darren O’Dea and Richard Eckersley — that’s more than a quarter of the cap.
Their take of the cap could be even larger since the league does not divulge how clubs use allocation money to pay down salaries.
“It definitely will be a lot easier next season,” Nelsen said of the rebuild. “But I think we’re getting there.”
A young forward is in the cards. Toronto was foiled in its bid to sign Argentine Maximilano Urruti earlier in the season. That chase may not be over, however.
Experience is wanted in midfield, to help the likes of Matias Laba and Jonathan Osorio. That experience could come in the form of another designated player.
The trade of attacking midfielder Luis Silva to D.C. United could open up the funds to sign two players, the manager said.
Help is also needed at fullback which has been a problem spot despite the big salaries.
Eckersley is healthy again after missing the last 14 games with a hamstring issue. O’Dea was moved to fullback from centre back. Ashtone Morgan, Ryan Richter and Darel Russell have yet to make the position their own.
Toronto also has to adjust what it spends on the position,
Next season, Nelsen sees bringing in “two or three more North American-type players, MLS experienced players.”
“And then all of a sudden you’re kind of looking at a squad that has the right balance that can handle the league.”
NOTES — Forward Kevin Davies, once linked to Toronto, has signed a two-year-deal with England’s Preston North End.