It’s a customary event around the league and a signal that “Silly Season” is now officially upon us. With MLS Cup now in the rear view mirror and the MLS expansion draft just a day away, Toronto FC announced four separate lists: Options exercised, options declined, protected players, and unprotected players. Let the games begin!
Sixteen players in total had their club options exercised. The list is as follows: Bendik, Konopka, Roberts, Morrow, Bloom, Hagglund, Creavalle, Morgan, Mannella, Osorio, Bekker, Lovitz, Warner, Aparicio and Luke Moore. In addition to those listed, 6 players are already under contract for the upcoming season: Caldwell, Oduro, Jackson and all 3 DP’s. No surprises there. Plenty of youth and several players who showed what they’re capable of moving forward.
Things get a bit more interesting when taking a look at those whose options were declined. Ryan Richter (on loan to Ottawa Fury FC for most of the season), Jeremy Hall (perpetually injured), Andrew Wiedeman (greatest finisher in the modern era), Bright Dike (out of contract), and last but definitely not least, 4 time MLS Cup champion and hometown boy, Dwayne De Rosario.
it’s important to mention that 2 players’ loan agreements have officially ended and they will now return to their respective clubs: Bradley Orr (Blackburn Rovers FC) and of course the controversial Doneil Henry (Apollon Limassol) saga.
Let’s get back to DeRo for a moment. For those who know me, you know I absolutely love the guy. He’s a fierce competitor and a winner, not to mention a hometown crowd favourite and TFC’s all-time leading scorer.
But here’s a reality check: DeRo is 36 years old and is only 2 years removed from a major knee injury. Those crowing most about this decision by the team fail to understand the facts. In the minds of many of the more vocal decriers who follow the team from a distance and may not be avid supporters, they still have this vision of Dwayne as an MVP impact player, capable of taking a game over; a player who can pick up the ball in the midfield and be a threat every time he’s involved in the play. Truth is, unfortunately, he is past his prime. He is a legend in the twilight of an illustrious career, and although his mind tells his body exactly where to be and what to do at an elite level, his body is not able to respond the way it did when he was 30. He is not that player anymore, and those of you who still think he is, are delusional. That actually hurt to write.
As much as it pains me to say it, unless DeRo is willing to sign a new deal for a much lesser salary than what he is currently on (approximately $137,000.00), this was the right decision by management. He is an MLS legend and deserves to be honoured in a similar fashion as Landon Donovan, which is why this move pains me as a fan. There, I said it. I could go on and on about how a legend of the game in Canada will consider retirement without having a team to salute him, but in fear of sounding like a whiny child, I’ll leave it at that.
The 2014 off-season will mark the first time since the Montreal Impact entered the league in 2012 that an expansion draft will be taking place. MLS will be welcoming Orlando City SC and New York City FC as the 19th and 20th teams (considering Chivas USA is now defunct), and in following protocol, all teams are required to produce a list of players who are protected and those will be left unprotected.
Toronto’s protected list of players is as follows: Defoe, Gilberto, Bradley, Osorio, Warner, Morrow, Moore, Hagglund, Bendik, Bekker and Creavalle. In addition to those protected are TFC’s homegrown players and recent addition Marco Delgado acquired throw the dispersal draft from Chivas USA.
In total, 6 players will be left unprotected, and they are: Jackson, Oduro, Bloom, Caldwell, Konopka, and Lovitz.
The reason for leaving most of these players unprotected is based purely on the size of their salary. Take for example Steven Caldwell and Dominic Oduro. Caldwell’s 2014 base salary was $325,000.00, while Oduro’s was in the $250,000.00 range…pretty heavy salaries for expansion teams to compensate while trying to add depth. Even Jackson’s salary is well over $100,000.00. I’m not worried about the prospect of those players being picked up, because its extremely unlikely. However, the players I’m most nervous about are Mark Bloom and Daniel Lovitz.
Bloom, being a native of the southern US and having his wife and young child living in Florida, probably wouldn’t find it too hard leaving Toronto to be reunited with his family should Orlando City decide to pick him up. At his current salary ($48,825.00) and the fact that he had a relatively good season with the Reds, I would be shocked if Orlando didn’t at least consider him as a potential player.
Young Daniel Lovitz has plenty of upside to his young career. He showed his ability and tenacity whenever he was called upon for Toronto. His dollar value combined with his potential within the league could make him a valuable pick up to either NYC or Orlando.
With the expansion draft coming up and considering the number of established MLS players who have been left unprotected, things will surely get interesting.
As I said in the lead up to 2014 season, the lack of depth in Toronto FC’s roster is most concerning. Considering that majority of the players that had their options not exercised were depth players, it remains to be seen how those holes will be filled. But this is MLS. Anything can happen. Just like when Matias Laba was traded to Vancouver for “funds”…yes I’m still bitter about that.
The 2014 MLS Expansion Draft is set to start at 2PM ET on December 10th. Stay tuned.
(image courtesy of torontofc.ca)