Juan Toja with Aris in action against Manchester City. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
4 PM has come and gone, and the New England Revolution are left with MLS veteran and Colombian international Juan Toja as the newest addition to their skillful midfield set. Ranked first in the allocation order, the Revs were in pole position to take advantage of Toja's return to the States, and they exercised their rights as expected.
"We're pleased to add a player of Juan's skill and experience through the Allocation Process, and we're looking forward to getting Juan in with the team as soon as possible," General Manager Michael Burns said. "He's not only played in MLS and is familiar with the league, but he's also been very successful in MLS. We believe he'll be a valuable player for us."
Toja (often referred to by his more full moniker of "Juan Carlos Toja," at least by our own TheIndirectKick) has had a relatively eventful career for a 27-year old, making stops in Colombia, Argentina, Romania, and Greece. He is best known - at least among American fans - for his stint in MLS with FC Dallas, where he made 43 regular-season appearances, scoring eight goals and notching three assists.
So here's the upside: in Toja, the Revs are getting a veteran attacking player with MLS experience, who can play the ball on the ground, can score, can run the left flank or the middle, and is more than aware of the physical rigors of playing in MLS. Plus, with his flamboyant hairstyle and electrifying style of play, Toja is a bit of a crowd-pleaser, too.
But there are downsides to this move, or at least possible ones, and they frighten me. Let's put aside the conversation about whether or not the Revs really need another creative midfielder, or whether having another really really left-footed player on this team is a good idea. Conventional wisdom dictates that Toja is an upgrade in talent, and thus someone should find a way to make it work.
My question is whether or not the conventional wisdom is correct. Toja is beloved in MLS circles for his 2007 season with Dallas, on loan from Colombian club Santa Fe. Dallas bought him in 2008, then sold him after the All-Star game to Steaua. We all know that.
But what I don't like is the image his post-2007 All-Star production paints. He struggled with injury in the last half of 2007, sure. But in 2008 he left after making 16 regular-season appearances and scoring two goals. That's not bad, really, but it's no better than any of the players on the current Revolution roster. And in Romania, he managed just three goals in 51 appearances. Then in Greece, it was just one goal in 37 appearances for Aris.
MLS history is littered with players who crush it for one season and then fade. Luciano Emilio, Alex Pineda Chacon (remember him?), and plenty of others have had similar issues. Some go on to long careers as solid, if unspectacular, MLS vets. Some get cut.
History points to the Revs finding the players that deserve to get cut. Even when they sign non-MLS vets that are supposed to be quality or have upside, it never seems to pan out in Foxboro (Jankauskas? Moreno? Dabo? Domi?). Call me cynical, but there's a lot to be worried about with this acquisition.
And perhaps worse, Jeff Lemieux tweeted that Toja's ITC and Visa might not be sorted out in time for him to make an appearance before September 15th. Come on, man! He's gonna play in what, four or five games? I'm not sure that's anybody's fault, but it's very irritating.
The possibility remains that Toja will be traded for other valuable pieces. Just because the Revs chose to exercise the pick and not trade it doesn't mean they can't trade the man. If that's where they're looking, expect returns in the form of quality defensive pieces, because if the Columbus match showed us anything, it's that the offense is much closer to getting it right than the defense.
Look, there were worse ways for the Revs to use their allocation pick here. Toja is a better pickup than Robles, especially when one accounts for the Colombian's trade value, so that's a win in and of itself. I could turn out to be totally wrong, and Toja could light it up this Fall before taking MLS by storm - again - next season. Or he could be the next Pepe Moreno. It remains to be seen.
Good move? Big risk? Am I the most cynical man on Earth today? Let us know in the comments!