Toronto FC: a discarded MLS XI
Until owners MLSE funded several big-money signings this past off-season, Toronto was a revolving door of mediocrity. At last count, the club had given MLS minutes to over 150 players in just over seven seasons. Such was the team’s shotgun approach, you can form a playoff-ready XI from former Toronto FC players still active in MLS like Joao Plata, Matias Laba and Maxi Urruti.
Some of these departures were inevitable, while others had the team kicking themselves. A number left under less-than-ideal circumstances and have come back to haunt the club – whether with goals or in proving themselves as leading MLS starters elsewhere.
This XI isn’t counting players who slipped through the Academy, such as Russell Teibert – they need at least one first-team appearance for the club, and to be currently registered to another MLS team. Even with those limits, this side looks capable of challenging for the playoffs:
GK: Stefan Frei (Seattle Sounders)
Swiss-born Frei, considered a potential for Canadian naturalization at one point, wound up out-of-favour in Toronto last season after coming back from injury, largely due to Joe Bendik’s heroics between the sticks. The goalkeeper would’ve found himself even further down the depth chart with Júlio César coming in early this year.
RB: Dan Gargan (LA Galaxy)
Gargan was a fan favourite in Toronto, a hard worker who wasn’t technically gifted but could fill in just about anywhere on the field. Those qualities saw him snapped up by LA Galaxy in March of this year, and Gargan has already been utilized on the right side by LA manager Bruce Arena.
CB: Marvell Wynne (Colorado)
Blessed with a sprinter’s pace, Wynne was an explosive right back for Toronto from 2007-10. Seen as more of a raw athlete than a defender, he was traded to Colorado for Nick Labrocca and a draft pick in 2010. Since then, he’s established himself as one of the league’s top centre backs and even won an MLS Cup at BMO Field – with Colorado, who won big in Wynne’s first season at the club.
CB: Nana Attakora (D.C. United)
Local boy Attakora formed a solid defensive partnership with Adrian Cann in 2010, looking set to be a mainstay in the club’s backline for years to come. That all changed in July 2011, though, as he was traded to San Jose and coach Frank Yallop for the first of two spells. The right-sided centre back joined D.C. United this off-season as a squad player for the capital club.
LB: Todd Dunivant (LA Galaxy)
Dunivant, who first played for LA in 2005-06, joined Toronto in their expansion year. Over the next season and a half, he solidified himself as a solid starting left-back, and since being traded to LA in early 2009, Dunivant has been a mainstay for the Galaxy. Cap reasons saw the Stanford alumnus moved along, but current Toronto boss Ryan Nelsen likely wishes his old college teammate was still on the roster.
CM: Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union)
Edu joined Toronto as no. 1 draft pick in 2007 and scored the goal that sealed their first ever victory, 3-1 over Chicago, before playing his way into a move to Rangers in March 2008. After four seasons in Scotland, Edu left when Rangers were forcibly relegated, joining Stoke City. He’s back in MLS in search of a World Cup spot, though, having joined Philly as a DP on loan in January.
CM: Matias Laba (Vancouver Whitecaps)
No-one was happy to see Laba leave, least of all GM Tim Bezbatchenko. The Argentine arrived in 2013, and with Gilberto joining later that year and Jermain Defoe set to arrive in 2014, the club had a perfect trio of DPs – that is, until Michael Bradley became available. “Bez” did everything in his power, but Laba ended up the odd man out, moving to Vancouver in preseason.
CM: Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes)
A second overall pick in the 2009 SuperDraft, Cronin was set to take Edu’s mantle as Toronto’s go-to central midfielder. After a decent start, he was traded to San Jose in 2010, leaving a gap in midfield that wasn’t properly addressed until 2014. Cronin has since made over 100 appearances for the Earthquakes, offering a stark reminder of his potential while Toronto struggled.
ST: Joao Plata (Real Salt Lake)
Plata was the star of Toronto’s 2011/12 Champions League run, scoring twice at Dallas and at Santos Laguna. Midway through 2012, though, he hadn’t scored a league goal and the club were desperate – off Plata went to Ecuador on loan, with detractors claiming he was too lightweight for MLS. On his return and a trade to Real Salt Lake, Plata has silenced his critics – 4 goals and 8 assists last season have been matched with a fine start to this one.
ST: Maxi Urruti (Portland Timbers)
Kevin Payne as Toronto GM was exemplified in his drawn-out pursuit of Urruti. After months of being courted by the Reds, the attacker spent just 24 days in Toronto before Payne was gone – and Urruti with him, traded to Portland. The whole saga spoke of a dysfunction in the ranks at BMO Field, one that’s hopefully been put to rest with Tim Leiweke’s tenure.
ST: Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes)
Gordon had a short but productive stint with Toronto in 2011, scoring 4 goals in 8 games before being replaced by DP signing Danny Koevermans. Since joining San Jose, Gordon won the Supporters’ Shield in 2012 and has provided ample support for fellow strikers Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski.
Head coach: Carl Robinson (Vancouver)
The head coaching job in Toronto has proven to be a graveyard for its occupants’ career ambitions, but Robinson is the first Toronto player to go on and coach within the league. He’s started well with Vancouver, and could be a potential Reds boss in the future (when Nelsen goes on to coach Blackburn and/or New Zealand, of course).
CB: Ty Harden (San Jose Earthquakes)
RB: Eric Avila (Chivas USA)
CM: Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew)
CM: Paulo Nagamura (Sporting Kansas City)
LM: Bobby Convey (New York Red Bulls)
ST: Quincy Amarikwa (Chicago Fire)
ST: Edson Buddle (Colorado Rapids)
Do you agree that this team (barring a goalkeeper injury) could make the playoffs? Who else should Toronto have kept? Let me know in the comment form below.