In 2017, Toronto FC (TFC) won multiple trophies, shattered league records, and amazed fans not only in Toronto but also around the league. After such success, few would have imagined that only four years later, TFC would finish in second-last place in MLS’s Eastern Conference. In response to their disappointing 2021 season, the club began making substantial changes almost immediately.
Front office and coaching staff changes
The day after TFC’s loss in the Canadian Championship, the club reported that Ali Curtis would not continue as the club’s general manager and senior vice-president of soccer operations. The day after that, TFC revealed that Javier Pérez would not remain the team’s head coach in 2022. Then, just one day later, the club stated that Bob Bradley had been hired as the team’s new head coach and sporting director.
Bradley comes into his coaching role at the club with an impressive résumé. He has been a head coach for more than 20 years, and has coached teams in the United States, Egypt, Norway, France, and England. In MLS, he has been named the Coach of the Year three times, and boasts an impressive 182 MLS wins — the third-most wins of any MLS coach. Bradley’s leadership and expertise will be vital as TFC heads into the 2022 season.
TFC’s roster has also undergone substantial changes during the off-season so far. In early December, the club revealed that they would not be re-signing two of their centre backs, Omar Gonzalez and Eriq Zavaleta. In the 2021 season, Gonzalez started 26 games and scored three goals. Zavaleta had been with the team since 2015 and, during this time, played over 100 games. However, in the 2021 season, TFC conceded 66 goals over 34 games, the second-worst amount in the league.
In light of their defensive struggles, TFC signed Shane O’Neill, a centre back who formerly played for the Seattle Sounders. The Seattle Sounders had an impressive 2021 season, finishing second in the Western Conference and allowing only 33 goals. O’Neill was an important part of the club’s defensive success, as he played 27 games and started 19 of them.
While O’Neill will provide necessary reinforcements in their defense, TFC must also focus on signing new full backs. After spending an impressive eight years at the club, left back Justin Morrow retired last season. As well, sources have reported that the talented right back Richie Lareya will be joining the club Nottingham Forest in England. With the departure of these two skilled full backs, TFC will have to find replacements for them before the 2022 season commences.
Toward the end of November, rumours began circulating that striker Josmer Volmy Altidore could be leaving Toronto. Since he joined in 2015, Altidore has been a key part of TFC’s success, as he scored 15 goals in the 2017 regular season and another two in the playoffs that year. In November, TFC Captain Michael Bradley said in an interview with Tim & Friends that Altidore is “one of the best, if not the best, players to ever play for this club.” TFC has not yet confirmed whether Altidore will be leaving the team.
Journalist Fabrizio Romano tweeted in early January that the Italian superstar Lorenzo Insigne would be joining TFC for five and a half years. Insigne will reportedly make around 13 million USD each season, which would make him the highest-paid player in MLS history.
Insigne is a left winger who currently plays for and captains the Serie A team SSC Napoli. During the 11 seasons he has spent with the club, he has scored 89 goals and contributed 70 assists, making him an integral part of the team. He has also played for the Italian national team since 2012. This signing is significant for both Toronto FC and the MLS, and sources like The Sports Network have already started calling it “one of the biggest signings in MLS history.”
However, Insigne will only begin playing with TFC in July, after half of the team’s regular season is over. TFC will need to find a way to start the season strong without the talented winger.
So far, TFC’s off-season has clearly been focused on bringing new leadership, perspectives, and talent into the club. Heading into the 2022 season, the future is wide open for this team — and the only place they have left to go is up.