Major League Soccer’s First Kick is quickly approaching and Toronto FC general manager Kevin Payne has been busy. As the fans gear up for the opening game away to the Vancouver Whitecaps, there has been a lot of news coming out of the TFC camp now that the team has come north.
The most important and most surprising news came early this week as captain Torsten Frings announced his retirement. He left the preseason camp in Orlando early to come back to Toronto to take care of personal matters. We now have found out that Frings came home to sort out his future. The former German international has been battling a hip injury and unfortunately did not see a return to health. He made it official with a press conference where he continued to show the class that he will be remembered for in Toronto. His detractors should never forget that he played most of last season on a wonky hip and pushed his surgery back as much as he could. The captain has left and now a new TFC era begins.
The new TFC kit was unveiled to the media. It goes away from any grey stripping that has been used in the past. Red dominates and a maple leaf is the focal point at the top. Over the years, the strip has been revamped and tweeked. Let’s hope this kit stays, as it is definitely the most professional looking one yet.
Striker Quincy Amarikwa finally got his wish as he was sent to the Chicago Fire for a supplemental draft choice. He was seeking an increase in salary but the team was unwilling to meet his demands. He didn’t participate in the preseason camp in Orlando and really didn’t impress in his few chances last season. If a player doesn’t want to be on the club then the best thing is to move him. Payne got that job done.
Doneil Henry came back from Canada’s failed under 20 campaign with a knock and is doubtful to participate in this weekend match against the Whitecaps.
Coach Ryan Nelson’s trip to London paid off as the club has come to terms with English winger Hogan Ephraim. The 24-year-old comes across the Atlantic on loan from Nelsen’s old club Queen’s Park Rangers. The deal only lasts until June 30, which gives the club and Payne a way to get rid of Ephraim if it doesn’t work out. Payne hasn’t burdened the club with an overpaid foreigner and this is a good move.
After all these moves, the roster is now at 22. The league has a 30 player maximum so Payne still has room to fill spots. Ephraim’s eligibility papers may not clear in time for this weekend’s first match so the club will be severely short.
Today, Payne stated that the club isn’t done and that further moves may occur before Saturday. With Designated Player spots open, Payne continues to look for that elusive striker. He has turned to Argentina to capture a player who could come in and score goals. Pablo Vitti was the last attacker the club signed from Argentina and the only impression he left was that of his pony tail.
This off-season, Honduras became the main destination for MLS clubs looking for talent and TFC is there as well. Payne is looking to bring in two midfielders from the nation, but won’t mention any by name yet.
The club has to decide on the futures of Taylor Morgan and Jonathan Osorio. Both made impressions on trial in Orlando. Morgan looks like a good bet to sign as his goals and his work upfront was vital to any success the club had. The lack of strikers in camp might even give him a shot to start this weekend. The gluttony of central midfielders and the addition of Ephraim, a winger, means that Osorio will be on the outside looking in. He should start the season on the reserve squad.
After the announcement of the signing of Ephraim, Payne also announced that former Welsh international Robert Earnshaw and Tottenham’s John Bostock will be joining the team on trial. Payne is quickly adding to his depth in the middle of park with Earnshaw adding some offensive punch.
It’s Wednesday and the First Kick is on Saturday so there is still time for Payne to make moves and I am sure lots will happen in the next few days. Let’s hope TFC has enough healthy bodies to put in a good effort at BC Place. Decisions still have to be made, like who will start and who will be the new captain. Richard Eckersley (pictured above), Darren O’Dea and Terry Dunfield could wear the armband. Most of the signings today or in the next few days may not be made official in time for the opening match.
I have been critical of Payne in the past, but for once he is making me believe that something good is happening with the club. Saturday is important but not as important as some of the moves he is making today because it is these moves that will pay off in June and July which is usually when the club struggles and falls down the MLS standings.
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