A star designated player in Toronto FC's future plans
Plans are afoot to bring a star "designated player" to Toronto FC, according to coach John Carver.
Toronto sits in last place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference, six points out of a playoff spot with six games remaining in the regular season.
Carver insists he hasn't thrown in the towel on the current campaign, but he has talked to general manager Mo Johnston about ways they can improve the club for the next season. The top priority is signing a designated player.
"I'll guarantee you that this will definitely happen by the start of next season. I'm guaranteeing it," Carver told reporters Monday afternoon.
Carver wouldn't confirm whether club management has begun to negotiate with potential DP candidates, but he did say the team has "earmarked a couple of players" that it would like to sign.
"We've already started planning for it. We are now thinking about what we're going to do next year. How can we take this on to another level," Carver said.
"The conversations we've had, without going into detail, is that it's going to happen. The time is right now to bring in at least one DP, if not two."
Under MLS rules, teams are granted one designated player roster spot that they can use to sign a marquee star, with only $400,000 US of his contract counting against the $2.1 million salary cap. Teams can also trade for a second DP slot.
The Los Angeles Galaxy famously made use of the DP rule to sign English superstar David Beckham in January 2007.
Carver has a few ideas as to how Toronto should use the DP slot it has at its disposal.
"We have to bring in a top-quality striker. We have to bring in a top-quality midfield player and we need to bring in a leader at centre back," Carver said.
"We need to go and get someone who can organize us, be strong and be aggressive. That’s what I'm looking for.
"I'm not looking for a DP who's at the end of his career. I don’t want guys who are only going to be here for one or two years. I want them to be here for a while. I'm thinking long-term for the club."
Toronto soccer fans, of course, have heard all of this before from the team, but Carver maintains it's different this time, and not just idle talk.
Team must 'produce the goods:' coach
"I've been hearing it ever I've come here, but let me tell you, the only way this club is going to go forward and give the fans what they want, is by producing the goods now," the Englishman said.
"Now is the time to produce the goods, because if we want to stay a middle-of-the-road, below-average team, then we'll just continue to go along without [a DP player].
"That's why the club needs them now, and [management] is behind it, and they're fully supportive of what we're talking about, so that's why I'm saying I'm really excited and that it will happen."
That's not to say Carver has given up on the current season and Toronto's dwindling playoff chances.
"It would be wrong for me not to be thinking about next season, but my priority right now is this season and not giving up on the situation," he said.
Even though the team has just one win in its last 12 games, Carver maintains that morale in the locker-room is high and that his players remain in good spirits.
"Players are coming to me and telling me that we can still do it. … They haven't given up on it, and they won't until it's mathematically impossible to get into the playoffs," Carver said.