Toronto FC have re-signed Michael Bradley on a TAM deal. The move is the ideal foundation for the Reds to make a real splash with a third Designated Player slot.
Toronto FC dominated MLS Cup. They may have ultimately fallen short, losing 3-1 to the Seattle Sounders, but without their designated player centre-forward, who was only fit enough to feature from off the bench, they were the superior team. They deserved to win.
In the end, they came an unfortunate 90 minutes from winning their second MLS Cup in just three years. They were right there. They just missed that upper-echelon piece of quality.
So when this crucial offseason commenced, for Ali Curtis and co., the aim was quite clear: to add just one or two critical pieces to put an already good team over the top. It helps, then, when you can re-sign one of your former DPs on a Target Allocation Money-based deal.
This week, Toronto FC confirmed that legendary midfielder Michael Bradley would return in 2020 on a TAM deal. Bradley has been central to Toronto’s success over the past decade and was one of the premier DPs in MLS last season. However, with his age only diminishing his impact and the league-wide trend of investing heavily in offensive weapons, Toronto were keen to reassemble their DP slots.
Bradley was happy to oblige, recognising that his taking a pay cut and releasing a third DP slot would help the team build a title-winning side. In fact, after the news was made official, both Toronto and Bradley revealed as much.
President Bill Manning said:
"“It was one of the first things he said to me when we really started getting into discussions. Michael said, ‘Will you go get another DP?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ That was critical. He’s not here to see out the end of his career, he still wants to win, that was important for him.”"
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Bradley echoed that sentiment:
"“That was a big drawing point, a big advantage for me. The club is in a position where they can go and get a really, really good player and not have to worry about the salary cap, about the other restrictions that exist. We had a good team last year, but now when you think about the possibility of adding another DP, a guy who can come in and help push us to a new level, that part is exciting.”"
While smart investment using those precious three DP slots is extremely important to building a high-end team, it is the other deals that supplement the best players that really take the top teams to a new level. Think Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris in Seattle; Darlington Nagbe and Julian Gressel in Atlanta; Victor Vazquez during Toronto’s great seasons. And now you can add Bradley to the list.
As Toronto FC look to build an MLS Cup-winning team, re-signing Bradley to a TAM deal and opening up a third DP slot is the ideal foundation. They can spend lavishly, and it could be the difference between deserving to win and winning.