As of this past Monday MLS rosters are frozen, meaning teams can't transfer, make trades or sign free agents, but that doesn't mean TFC director of soccer Mo Johnston's work is done for the season.
With an eye on next year, he recently made a scouting trip to South America, and Thursday he returned to TFC practice full of hope amid big talk about building strong networks in Brazil and Argentina.
Of course, he said similar things last year when he made a scouting mission to South America, but a quick scan of their current roster reveals exactly zero South American players.
This isn't to say that Johnston is wasting his time and MLSE's money with his annual pilgrimages to Brazil and Argentina. But it looks like bringing South American talent to BMO Field is a lot like installing natural grass there -- a noble goal, but much more complex than it seems.
Johnston himself acknowledged that the trips aren't so much about signing players for today as they are about finding pipelines of young talent that TFC can tap tomorrow.
"I'm not looking at guys who are 33 or 34," Johnston said, adding that his targets are between 19 and 21. "It's important that we establish ourselves within that market, even if we don't take anything this year."
Might be a smart move, since most folks who follow MLS agree that South American signings generally yield more player for less money than European free agents do.
On a recent story about head coach John Carver's promise to sign a designated player, a commenter points out correctly that Guillermo Barros Schelotto gives Columbus DP-type play (a league-high 18 assists) but doesn't cost close to DP money ($375,000).
Not to suggest that Laurent Robert exemplifies all European signings, but the former French international and Derby County castoff made 90 percent of Schelotto's salary while delivering, say, 15 percent of his production.
While revealing that he planned to make at least one more trip to South America between now and January, Johnston stressed that he wasn't going there looking for the designated player he and Carver have been discussing with the media lately.
He said the DP he has in mind comes from someplace considerably colder than Brazil.
"Preferably I'd like him to be Canadian. That's all I'm saying," Johnston said.
-- Morgan Campbell