Toronto FC has begun the process of restructuring for next season, parting ways with seven players including striker Robert Earnshaw.
Officially, the 6-17-11 MLS team declined options on Earnshaw and midfielders Bobby Convey, Darel Russell, and Michael Thomas.
Forwards Danny Koevermans, one of the team’s designated players, and Justin Braun and goalkeeper Stefan Frei are out of contract and also heading out the door. All three were big-ticket items with Koevermans at $1.66-million, Frei at $200,000 and Braun at $114,700 last season.
Earnshaw led the team with eight goals in 26 games in 2013. Braun had two in 21 games while the injury-plagued Koevermans was scoreless in four games.
By declining contract options, Toronto can still negotiate with Earnshaw ($155,150), Convey ($215,000), Russell ($109,874.96) and Thomas ($60,17321). If they cannot come to terms, the players go into the re-entry draft.
Earnshaw, Convey and Russell were valued by Toronto but would probably be appreciated more at a lower price. Thomas saw limited action in 2013.
Toronto picked up options on goalkeepers Joe Bendik, Chris Konopka and Quillan Roberts; defenders Gale Agbossoumonde, Mark Bloom and Ryan Richter; midfielders Kyle Bekker, Reggie Lambe, and Jeremy Hall; and forwards Bright Dike, Emery Welshman, and Andrew Wiedeman.
Already under contract for the 2014 season are defenders Jonas Elmer, Ashtone Morgan, Doneil Henry, Richard Eckersley, and Steven Caldwell and midfielders Matias Laba, Jonathan Osorio, Manuel Aparicio, and Alvaro Rey.
“We are writing a new story for TFC, and it begins with our current players,” Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “We have not had a solid core group like this in a long time, and this core is prepared and excited about taking this club to the next level. We will continue discussing the possibility of returning next season with those players whose options were declined.”
Toronto is likely not finished pruning its roster.
Eckersley made $310,000 last season and is due to make $500,000-plus this season due to a contract renegotiation. That is too rich for Toronto, which is expected to buy out his contract.
Toronto is also in the midst of searching for two designated player strikers, with Tottenham’s Jermaine Defoe and Genoa’s Alberto Gilardino among the club reported targets during the January transfer window.
The MLS team is also looking for some veteran North American talent to bolster the defence and upgrade the speed on the flank.