With MLS camps in full swing and a new season just around the corner, things have been relatively quiet with each of the three Canadian MLS clubs, leaving fans waiting with bated breath for a signing or two to address some pressing needs.
The Gaffers take a look and assess, as only we do.
Today, in our first installment, we look at MLS Cup Runners Up, Toronto FC…
The most notable, and newsworthy exit in The Big Smoke was Will Johnson, who chose to depart for Orlando, but not before firing away some parting shots. Johnson struggled to find a place in the squad in the latter weeks of the regular season, and made known his disdain with not being guaranteed a starting role.
He’s since expressed regret over the comments, with Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney responding in kind in mid-January.
“It’s a deep midfield so in the end I can’t promise anyone any specific amount of minutes or any specific role in the grand scheme of things,” Vanney told The Toronto Star. “I fully understand Will’s position and interest in wanting to be a bigger part of an organization and having a better sense of what his role is going to be day in and day out. I would be no different if I was at the time period he’s at in his career.”
The midfield is indeed deep in Toronto, but do they have the player to plug in behind Seba, Altidore, and Tosaint Ricketts?
Jozy Altidore may not believe so, as quoted by John Molinaro in a Tweet from December 13, 2016, “To be completely honest, I think we could use a little bit more of a creative player [in midfield or on wing].”
Recent signings include returning midfielder Benoit Cheyrou, who will surely continue to bring his experience and big-game performances this season (any Montreal Impact fan will remember the dagger from extra time in last season’s Eastern Conference Final).
TFC have also added Congolese International defender Chris Mavinga from Russia’s Rubin Kazan. Left-footed Mavinga can play as either a left back or in the centre of the backline, and looks to be versatile if Vanney chooses to stick with his favoured 3-5-2 formation. While unable to break into Liverpool’s first team a few years ago, Mavinga’s experience in several top-flight leagues should definitely be an asset.
But back to that creative player. No addition to the roster would seem to fit the bill.
Enter Jay Chapman, 23-year old Homegrown Academy product from Brampton, Ontario. Chapman made his first team debut in 2015, and appeared in 18 games last season (9 as a starter).
Several pundits and sportswriters around the club feel Chapman may be the answer. As does he, himself, telling Sportsnet earlier this month, “In college, I played as a box-to-box playmaker. I view myself as a creative midfielder. Last year when I got the opportunity to play as an attacking midfielder, I think it benefitted the team a lot. I was able to get a run of games and really make the position my own, so I think I could fill that role full-time.”