Monday, January 26, 2015

Toronto FC Drops the Mike, Wins the 2014-15 Offseason

TFC fans would never abandon a sinking ship. NEVER.
Unless some other Major League Soccer (MLS) club embarks on a true drunken sailor spree, I hereby declare Toronto FC the official winner of the 2014-15 offseason. This means retiring the only series of this blog's short life. Sad day and all that, but we’ll have games to talk about soon enough. Right? (Fucking CBA negotiations...just give them free agency, you assholes...)

How does a club "win" the offseason? In short, by making the most, and, by assumption, the best steps to make its first team competitive in 2015. In other words, this isn't about which clubs look set to win it all in 2015 – teams returning strong teams, like the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC, look fine there – but instead asks which club set itself up best to improve over their 2014. Or even to challenge for the top of...something.

(And, for the record, I do rule out the two expansion clubs, Orlando City FC  and New York City FC, because, 1) they have no MLS track record and, therefore, no yesterday’s apples with which to compare to today’s apples; and 2) expansion clubs’ rosters are, by definition, ground-up rebuilds. So, of course they've done more than anyone else.)

Back to TFC, their super-signings got plenty of press. Anyone who missed the arrivals of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco probably doesn't actually think about MLS, at all, so no links for them! The problem was that neither of them addressed the widely-held/likely-safe, assumption that balance issues kept TFC from looking like a contender. Put it this way: till today, the weight of talent for this club rested at the fore of the good ship. Toronto appreciated this problem, so they dropped some weight at the back. And – pow! - they righted TFC's little dinghy. (Who's in the mood for a song? My ding-a-ling, my ding-a-ling! Won’t you play with my ding-a-ling!)

Between some solid experience for former clubs and country, and some nice club names on the ol' CV, Damien Perquis provides enough (apparent) weight to get TFC's boat sailing damn close to level. This morning, much like, oh, let's go with a drug dealer, a man carefully adding and removing his sweet, sweet contraband to the opposite side of the scale, TFC finally (if only arguably) fully balanced the scales with the trade for Eriq Zavaleta. Combine personal biases and how my neurons chat one to the other and this gets TFC over the threshold for me. That's right, just one more tiny piece and they've done enough to get me believing that, holy hallelujah, those extraordinarily loyal fans up north have got the team they deserve. Get cocky, Toronto...

Zavaleta may or may not mean all that much in the grand scheme, but he looks experienced enough to provide depth for one or both of TFC's existing, fairly decent fullbacks, Justin Morrow and Mark Bloom (or, if ignorance means I have him lined up in the wrong part of the back line, eh, he's still depth at the back). Perquis should challenge to a starting role and, as such, he provides the more important service. Worst case, he spells Stephen Caldwell and helps Nick Hagglund grow into the big-boy soccer boots.

So, congrats to Toronto FC and their brain trust. And to the several other nominees considered over the life of this short series – chiefly, the Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew SC, and the Houston Dynamo – thanks for playing and good luck.

In closing, sorry about the jinx, Toronto! And best of luck to you in 2015!

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