It has not been happy hunting for Toronto FC on the road this season. The recent defeat to Inter Miami at the DRV PNK Stadium was TFC’s third straight loss away from home and stretched their winless MLS run to six games. Such a run of form has all but extinguished hope of a postseason adventure from even the most ardent optimists in Toronto. Granted, there is plenty of soccer left to play, but TFC will need to pull out an extraordinary turnaround and rely on teams above them to trip up to have any chance of finishing in the top half of the Eastern Conference.
For a team with one of, if not the highest team Payroll in the MLS, the season so far can be described as nothing more than a disappointment. Part of the reason for TFC’s struggles this term is their leaky back line: The Reds have allowed more goals (44) than any other team in the MLS so far. It’s now also 17 games since TFC last shut out an opponent. That’s especially egregious given that Toronto have only scored two fewer than Philadelphia Union and Montréal who sit in third and sixth respectively.
At risk of adding to an already hefty team salary, one obvious way to try and engineer an improvement in form through the end of this campaign would be to add to the roster before the September 15 cut-off date. Fans could be tempted to take advantage of the best betting offers in Canada and place a wager or two on Toronto wins in the coming weeks if the team can strengthen their defence with some new recruits: There are plenty of top quality free agents who could be tempted by a season or two in the MLS.
Almost certainly out of reach are the likes of World Cup- and nine-time Bundesliga winner Jérôme Boateng, whose Bayern Munich contract came to an end in the summer. There are a host of top European clubs reportedly in the hunt for his signature, and with good reason: At 32, Boateng still has a lot to offer at the highest level.
More realistic potential acquisitions are the likes of Rafael Da Silva and Shkodran Mustafi. Former Manchester United star Rafael enjoyed a five-year spell at Lyon after leaving Old Trafford, and has since been released by Turkish side Basaksehir. The 31-year-old right-back would bring vast experience to the TFC back line.
German centre-back Mustafi is another battle-hardened defender currently searching for a new club. Arsenal paid a £36.9m fee for his services back in 2016 on the back of his strong season for Valencia in La Liga. He failed to hit the heights that this sizable outlay demanded (though this was just as much an ‘Arsenal’ problem as it was a Mustafi problem) and his return to Germany last season to try and lift Schalke 04 out of free-fall was ultimately ill-fated. However, there’s a quality player in there somewhere – you don’t earn 20 caps for the German national team for nothing. The MLS could prove an ideal platform for Mustafi to reestablish his reputation.
There’s no doubt that this calibre of player would prove expensive for Toronto, so the pressure would well and truly be on if they were to take the plunge on them. There are other options that would put less strain on franchise finances, though, while also taking the heat off the likes of 20-year-old centre-back Luke Singh, who was pulled off before the hour-mark after a difficult night in Fort Lauderdale.
Ricardo Ferreira fits the bill, for example. Mississauga native and former Toronto FC youth player, Ferreira is an uncompromising centre-back. A dual Portuguese-Canadian citizen, he’s been plying his trade in Portugal since 2013 but, having recently been released by Farense, is available on a free. Ferreira is only 28 years old but has a great deal of European top-division experience under his belt. He recently switched international allegiance to Canada (having previously represented Portugal at all levels from U17 to senior), and may feel that game time in the ever-improving MLS could help his international chances.
Finally, there’s one free agent that Toronto could surely never say no to. Although we’ve established goal-scoring is not the root of TFC’s issues this season, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Sebastian Giovinco is currently without a club after drawing a trophy-laden spell with Al-Hilal to a close recently. Upon leaving Toronto in 2019, the Italian forward insisted he would have taken a paycut to stay, however the stars didn’t align for ‘Gio’ and TFC. Perhaps they will now, though, and The Reds’ all-time leading goalscorer can be coaxed back home?