As I type this post the folks who run TFC are meeting with the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment board of directors trying to figure out, among other things, how to spend the money in 2009.
More specifically, today's meeting is where Mo Johnston et al make the case to the MLSE board that Toronto FC needs to sign a designated player for the 2009 season.
Johnston has talked about making the move for a while, and even hinted when training camp opened on a snowy day last February that TFC might spring for a DP before the 2008 season ended. We all know that didn't happen. Instead, TFC spent yet another season with a roster in constant flux as the team slumped early, surged in the springtime, then disappeared for most of the summer before rallying late.
Granted, the team managed 10 more points (35) and nine more goals (34) than they collected in 2007, but after a preseason in which most people connected with the team saw the playoffs not just as a goal but as the squad's chief objective, TFC missed the postseason for the second straight year.
So I guess the question is, would one player -- albeit a (theoretically) wonderfully talented and motivated DP with a seven-figure salary and a point to prove -- have made the difference?
John Carver thinks so.
As autumn wore on, attention turned to what the 2009 roster might look like. Carver became increasingly prone to post-practice rants about the type of player he wanted to see here next year: young guys with plenty of "bollocks" ... or "bullocks"... whichever one translates to what Chuck Swirsky calls "onions."
He also said he'd quit his gig at TFC if the team didn't prove to fans (and itself) that it was serious about winning by signing a DP.
Was he serious? Maybe not completely, but he made it clear which side of the designated player debate he inhabits.
As for me, I'm still not sold. Last season I pointed out repeatedly that most of the league's leading teams, and the two that met in the MLS Cup final, were DP-free. To me, the evidence suggested that you'll accomplish more in this league fielding 11 high-quality, mid-price players than you will by supplementing a group of scrubs with one superstar.
This year's playoff landscape looks a little different. Of the final four MLS teams, two (New York and Chicago) have a DP on their roster.
But a third team, Columbus, has Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who gives them DP-level play at Laurent Robert prices.
And the fourth, Real Salt Lake, produced lacklustre results until an infusion of moderately priced Argentine talent energized the club late in the 2007 season.
You could argue that the right DP -- ie: one who could score consistently -- could have gained Toronto at least four extra points, which was the margin by which they missed the playoffs. You could argue that and you'd probably be right.
But if I'm running a club, I'd rather build a 40-plus point squad first, and then sign a DP. Then those extra four points might make the difference between third place and first, and a few well-timed goals might be the difference between a strong playoff run and an MLS Cup.
I'm not running the team, though, and I'm not the one eager to show the fans who fill my stadium every week that I really am serious about building a winner and not satisfied simply collecting their cash.
However, if I were trying to build a winner I'd start with plenty of mid-priced talent and finish with a DP.
First, if you haven't seen it please check out Ronaldinho's golazo from last week's UEFA Cup game between AC Milan and Sporting Braga.
Second, looks like David Beckham isn't just too busy for MLS this winter. He's also too busy for Salma Hayek, who hasn't been able to connect with Beck despite dropping $350,000 for a one-hour soccer lesson from the L.A. Galaxy's golden boy. The soccer lesson was part of a charity auction they both participated in, so I really can't figure out what's wrong with Beckham. I understand he's married and busy, but if I were him I'd make time for Salma Hayek... I mean for charity.
-- Morgan Campbell