No Playoffs? Big Problem

The MLS Cup Playoffs have been put on hold this weekend due to World Cup Qualifying Playoffs and International friendlies. With over a week of unpredictability to go until the two teams playing for MLS Cup are decided, now is a great time to outline what will be an important offseason for Canada’s three MLS outfits. With a combined 12 seasons and two Wild-Card Playoff flameouts between Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and the Montreal Impact, changes need to be made to right the footy ship. The following are my top-priority suggestions for each Canadian MLS team for the upcoming offseason.

Toronto FC: DO NOT pursue Dwayne de Rosario

The undoubted best player in Toronto FC and Canadian soccer history was released by D.C. United two weeks ago. From 2009 to 2011, DeRo lit up BMO Field and quickly became TFC’s leader, fan favourite, and all-time leading goalscorer. After rightfully demanding a Designated Player-type contract that MLSE were unwilling to offer, DeRo was shipped out two games into the 2011 season, only to continue his torrid form.

So why not try to lure him back?

First and foremost, de Rosario is now 35 years old and is coming off two straight injury-riddled seasons. TFC fans would love to see him back in their colours, but at the same time would put unreasonable expectations on him that would only weaken his play.

Part of the very big fan problem that TFC is experiencing is caused by their immense amount of roster and front-office turnover. DeRo wants to play until he can’t walk, but it is not unreasonable to think he may be hoping for a one-year deal and calling it quits immediately after. From this perspective, DeRo would be just another of many stopgaps rather than a core to build around long-term.

The final reason why TFC shouldn’t go after DeRo is that they have bullied him enough. MLSE never trusted him enough to give him the money he wanted (and deserved) or a team he could lead to the Playoffs. If 2014 truly is DeRo’s curtain call, why should he have to face it by reliving bad memories or by harming his chances of MLS Cup #5?

Toronto FC must build a young, playoff-contending team this offseason. Dwayne de Rosario is far from the former and is shooting for more than the latter.

Vancouver Whitecaps: Trade Camilo Sanvezzo or Darren Mattocks, or both

Vancouver took a step back this season, narrowly missing the MLS Cup Playoffs after bowing out to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference Wild-Card Playoff in 2012. The main reason for this demise was a defence that, despite conceding only four more goals in 2013 than in 2012, went from second-best to twelfth-best in the league. Not even an offence that had an 18-goal improvement in the same period could keep the ‘Caps in the playoff picture.

With a defence core that is aging (goalkeeper Joe Cannon), injury-prone and aging (centre-backs Jay DeMerit and Andy O’Brien), or retiring (full-back Lee Young-Pyo), Vancouver’s defence does not appear able to catch up to the league standard as of right now.

Enter Camilo and/or Mattocks. Both strikers are young (25 and 23, respectively), energetic, and are excellent pieces for any MLS frontline, except for Vancouver’s.

By winning the Golden Boot, Camilo immensely raised his own trade value. That being said, a scorer of Camilo’s caliber is much easier bought than sold; a substantial offer will not be accepted until Vancouver is willing to part ways with their dynamic Brazilian. Entering 2014, the Whitecaps have a glut of young offensive talent, of which Camilo is the elder statesman and is facing stiff competition that will only improve.

Mattocks was a virtual nonfactor for Vancouver in 2013, but he is still the powerful, fast, driven player he was in 2012. On his day, he can be a match-winner and can score from athleticism alone. His recent sound-off on Jamaican TV suggests he wants a change of scenery though, and his value is still as high as his potential.

Kekuta Manneh, Erik Hurtado, Corey Hertzog, and Omar Salgado are waiting to take over the Vancouver attack. Sending Camilo and/or Mattocks out will let them while also getting them some much-needed defensive help.

Montreal Impact: Invest in youth

Comparing Montreal’s Win-Loss-Draw record from the first ten games of the 2013 season (6-2-2) with the last ten games (2-6-2) is like retelling the story of the Titanic. Veterans like Alessandro Nesta, Matteo Ferrari, Patrice Bernier, and Marco Di Vaio emerged from a long 2012 offseason jumping out of the gate, but by the end of the season their 30-something legs could not do what they used to.

Only entering their third season, the Impact face a great deal of uncertainty looking forward. They fielded a whopping seven of the ten oldest starting XI’s in MLS this season, and aside from Felipe Martins and Sanna Nyassi have no truly promising faces who are 25 and under. There may very soon come a point for the Impact where it would be better for the old guys to retire so that the team doesn’t shoot itself in the foot once the summer ends.

Montreal has solutions available, but the most beneficial may be to start shopping some of their core players and get some youth in return. Not only will the young players create a better future outlook for the Impact, they will take up far less salary cap space and may even bring some allocation money with them.

Montreal can use this money to their advantage if they can get something they have never had before: a big, BIG name player with a French connection. Patrice Bernier is a hometown hero and for that reason may not get traded, but having him line up with an Anelka, Malouda, or as many Quebecers would pray for, a Drogba, would be worth more than the price of admission.

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