Toronto FC: A poor team can’t afford to mortgage the one thing it has — the future

Luis Silva

Luis Silva

Clearly, it’s a deal made to make way for a major move to come. And the trading of 24-year-old Luis Silva to D.C. United in exchange for allocation money will only further fuel speculation that Toronto FC is clearing the decks to make way for Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan. (Or, if that falls through, another marketable Designated-Player star)

When Tim Leiweke was hired as the new president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the man who was key in bringing David Beckham and Robbie Keane to the Los Angeles Galaxy said he had carte blanche from the board to spend what was needed to bring in a high-profile Designated Player.

“If we find the right guy, they’re all in,” he pledged back then. (CLICK HERE)

But, for a team that is currently 13 points out of the playoffs, is shedding a hopeful young prospect the right thing to do? Why bring in aging players for a playoff push that, if successful, would be considered nothing short of miraculous?

Aren’t young players the foundation of building teams that will be competitive in the future? Yes, Silva’s production has slipped — five goals last season, none this year, and, as the games went on this season more hope was placed on Jonathan Osorio as an attacking mid than Silva.

Still, what purpose does a high-profile DP serve to a team that’s time zones away from the playoff chase? Shouldn’t the philosophy for a struggling team be to play the kids and give them their baptisms of fire?

Let’s look at the Galaxy as an example. When Beckham arrived in 2007, he couldn’t transform a bad team into a playoff contender. Same in 2008, when the Galaxy surrendered a whopping 62 goals in 30 games. What Beckham did was add some legitimacy to MLS — and, yes, the creation of the DP rule paved the way for the likes of Torsten Frings, Thierry Henry and Keane to join the league. But, it took the Galaxy until 2009 to become competitive, which was year three of Beckham’s stay.

Why? Because Beckham had preciously little around him. You could make an argument that the addition of centre back Omar Gonzalez in the draft, and the trade that brought fullback Todd Dunivant to Los Angeles contributed more to L.A.’s move from outhouse to penthouse than any DP signing. It was when the supporting cast was in place, under the tutelage of coach Bruce Arena, that the Galaxy finally turned the corner.

And that’s the rub. Bring a DP into what is, frankly, a poor Toronto team, and you won’t have instant improvement. The base is better than it was last year, but still is nowhere near MLS playoff standard. Now, yet another first-round draft pick is traded for allocation. (Sam Cronin, anyone?)

What TFC needs is a legacy player. A thirtysomething DP can only be useful for a short time. And, when he’s gone, what’s left? If TFC was close to being a contender, then an older DP who can make immediate impact makes sense. But, a thirtysomething DP can never be a foundational player; he can be the cherry-on-top player, the guy who turns a good team into a great team. But for a poor franchise, acquiring an aging star, if it means jettisoning prospects, is a risky move indeed.

What do bad teams have to sell to their fans? The future. Why mortgage it?

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.