Toronto FC GM ready to make roster moves as MLS transfer window opens

By The Canadian Press
July 8, 2019 - 11:00am

TORONTO — Reinforcements are on the way for Toronto FC.

And not just in the form of captain Michael Bradley, star striker Jozy Altidore and newly signed centre back Omar Gonzalez now that the Gold Cup is over.

The MLS's secondary transfer window opens Tuesday and Toronto GM Ali Curtis is ready to make moves.

"There may be some things that will happen (Tuesday) and then also some things that will happen during the entire month that the window is open," Curtis said Monday.

Toronto is about to add a young South American winger, using targeted allocation money. Curtis may also bring in another TAM signing although the timing of that one is more flexible. 

"We have a number of different options," he said. "We're going to be a little bit more patient with that particular signing ... That will not happen (Tuesday) or this week. But it may happen later in the next two to four weeks.

"And then we're exploring some options within the league, in terms of acquiring a player or two."

The South American player will be able to play on both sides of the field.

Curtis also plans to sign one or two players from within the TFC system to homegrown contracts.

The season has been a struggle for Toronto, which lost much of its offence when Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez opted for fat contracts with Middle East clubs.

Injuries and international absences have also taken a toll in recent weeks. Toronto (6-8-5) has taken just seven points out of a possible 33 in its last 11 games (1-6-4).

The team is coming off a 2-0 loss at the Los Angeles Galaxy that ended a brief two-game unbeaten run that saw TFC beat Atlanta and tie D.C. United. Prior to that the team had gone winless in eight (0-5-3).

"There are difficult moments or challenging moments for every team," said Curtis. "You've got to find a way to manage through those moments, without excuses."

Toronto plays at the Montreal Impact (9-9-3) on Saturday, kicking off a crucial run with 10 of the next 11 games against Eastern Conference opposition.

"There's a lot of runway left ... we've got a lot to play for," Curtis said.

Toronto currently holds down the seventh and last playoff spot in the East, but only on goal difference over New England.

While Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo was the team's prize acquisition this season, goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, defender-midfielder Richie Laryea and winger Jacob Shaffelburg have proved to be good additions.

Westberg has taken over as No. 1 'keeper while Shaffelburg, who came up through the team's academy ranks, and the versatile Laryea, have both impressed.

Toronto currently has 30 players on its first team roster although Jon Bakero (Phoenix Rising FC, USL), Aidan Daniels (Ottawa Fury FC, USL) and Ryan Telfer (York 9, CPL) are loaned out —  providing roster and budget flexibility.

Seventeen of those spots are on the senior roster, meaning Curtis has three openings providing he can fit the additions under the salary cap.

"I think we'll end up with 19 or 20 (on the senior roster)," he said.

"In a lot of ways I think we'll be one of, if not the most changed teams coming into the (transfer) window in terms of the players that are returning from injury that will be healthy, as well as all the players that we get back from the Gold Cup," he added. "And then the new players that we'll add to the team.

"I think we'll be a team that's at full strength or very near to full strength, so that we can really start to give our best and to try to get the results that we need to (get) such that we can have a successful year. Everybody's doing everything that they can to put everyone in a position to succeed — players, coaches, staff, we're all working hard."

As for Giovinco, Curtis says the team has kept in touch with the 32-year-old Italian forward who has maintained a home in Toronto since joining Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal.

"We've met on a couple of occasions and just talked about his team, his role there, where he's at, opportunities in MLS or with Toronto in the future but at the moment it's status quo," said Curtis. "He will not be a player that is coming back in this moment. The conversations that we had were good, friendly, and I wished him well in terms of this upcoming season for him. And we go from there."

Giovinco, a former MLS MVP, scored 73 goals and added 57 assists in 125 regular-season and playoff games for Toronto over four seasons.

 

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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