That was enough for coach John Carver and general manager Mo Johnston to both publicly proclaim that the team's No. 1 priority in the off-season was to reshape the centre of defence.
A first step
Last month, Toronto traded Marshall to Seattle Sounders FC and then a few weeks later made a smart move when it acquired Canadian veteran Adrian Serioux in a deal with FC Dallas.
Serioux is renowned for his physical, tough-tackling style of play, as well as his fearlessness on the field, and he is a welcome addition to the Toronto FC roster that badly needs quality and depth at the back.
But he alone isn't the answer to the team's problems in the centre of defence.
Although he does play in the centre of defence for the Canadian national team (and he routinely played in that position for Dallas), Serioux's natural position is defensive midfielder, and he needs to be playing alongside a more experienced central defender to be effective.
Serioux's relentlessness (some would say recklessness) is also a liability. The Scarborough, Ont., native has a habit of picking up too many yellow and red cards, and if history is any indication, you can expect him to miss at least a few games this season through suspension.
What Toronto needs is another experienced, veteran central defender to work in tandem with Serioux; a defensive general and organizer in the mould of Franco Baresi or Tony Adams.
They need someone who can efficiently organize the back-line, bark out orders and yank teammates by the collar (if they have to) when they're handing out marking assignments.
They need someone like Jimmy Conrad, a stud central defender who's been around MLS for some time, who knows MLS inside-out and knows how to stop the league's top forwards.
Time is ticking
Toronto can't rely on Serioux to anchor the defence alongside Velez (who, it has to be said, must be traded right away, even if it's for allocation money), nor can the team expect him to hold things down while playing alongside Kevin Harmse or youngster Nana Attakora-Gyan.
Velez, Harmse and Gyan are not starters, they're late-game substitutes (at best); players that can come on in the final minutes of the game, or be used in an emergency when the regular starters are injured, suspended or away on international duty.
The same can be said of Gambian teenagers Emmanuel Gomez and Amadou Sanyang, two recent additions.
The clock is ticking. Toronto's first game is on March 21 in Kansas City.
Toronto can't afford to wait until April or June to find a partner for Serioux, because a slow start to the season could do serious, irreparable damage to the team's legitimate chance to make the playoffs.
Toronto has to act NOW and pull the trigger on a trade deal, or bring in an experienced centre-back from Europe or South America. The team's fate hangs in the balance.
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