TFC notebook: Luke Moore’s future uncertain

Toronto FC forward Luke Moore. (Hannah Yoon/CP)

Toronto FC practised for the first time on Tuesday since returning home on the weekend from the first leg of its pre-season training camp in California.

Here are some news and notes to come out of Tuesday’s session at the club’s training facility in Downsview.

Luke Moore’s future uncertain
Luke Moore is still in England, where he’s been since the start of TFC’s pre-season camp in January, and his future with the club remains uncertain.

Moore has a guaranteed contract with Toronto for 2016, but coach Greg Vanney revealed it’s not a lock the English forward will be back with the Reds this season.

“His representatives and [Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko] are working through the details of how all of this will look. We’ll see how it plays out over the next few days, I imagine,” Vanney stated.

He later added: “Hopefully we get a resolution and we either get him back or not, but soon.”

Moore made $235,500 US last season, a sizeable contract for a player with just one goal in 2015 and in a league with a salary cap of $3.66 million. According to sources the club is not roster compliant at the moment and will have to make squad cuts by March 2.

Considering how TFC has already used its one salary cap buyout (on Ahmed Kantari)—and reading between the lines, if Moore was genuinely in the club’s plans he’d probably be in camp by now—it’s more than likely he won’t return to Toronto.


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Youngsters impress in California
TFC played four exhibition games while in California, including one tilt against fellow MLS side LA Galaxy.

Japanese midfielder and top draft pick Tsubasa Endoh impressed in California, improving his chances of being signed to a contract by the Reds—instead of being signed to TFC II, the team’s feeder club in the third-tier USL league.

“He looked good. He fit in. I said before the draft, he’s a very intelligent player and he knows how to operate. He makes very good decisions with the ball,” Vanney said. “We want to see how he progresses but he’s done very well so far.”

Canadian forward Molham Babouli, who spent last season with TFC II, also showed well in California and scored two goals.

“He’s a threat on the attacking side of things. What we want to see from him is a commitment to work with the team defensively and do all the necessary hard and gritty work that it takes to play on the road for many games and be a contender for a spot on this roster,” Vanney said.

Off to Florida for final leg of camp
Canadian midfielder Will Johnson, and Americans Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore joined TFC on its second-last day in the Golden State as they were previously in camps with their respective national teams. Vanney fill focus on integrating the trio into training this week before the team heads to Florida for the final leg of pre-season.

TFC has two exhibition games scheduled thus far in Florida: vs. Montreal Impact (Feb. 24) and Philadelphia Union (Feb. 27). The club is close to finalizing a third game against Orlando City, and is also looking to add two more matches, most likely against local college teams.

Roster numbers
TFC have yet to make any roster cuts this pre-season. By Sportsnet’s count, there are still 36 players either under contract or training with the team: 27 senior TFC players, all four of their draft picks, and five players from TFC II.

Assuming Luke Moore won’t be back, that brings the senior roster number down to 26, two below the limit. As mentioned earlier, TFC is not roster compliant, so expect decisions to be made over the next two weeks—not just who (if anyone) will fill those two spots, but who (if anyone) will be cut in order to get under the salary cap.

“We knew we were going to get through this first part and take a good look at everybody. As we move to Orlando we’ll start making the roster decisions that we need to,” Vanney confirmed.

Seba excited for NBA All-Star weekend in Toronto
Saturday features a marquee Serie A fixture between Napoli and Juventus in Turin. It’s a battle of the top two teams in Italy’s top division, with league-leaders Napoli holding a two-point lead over Juventus, Sebastian Giovinco’s former club.

Despite the importance of the match, Giovinco admitted he won’t be watching, as his attention will be focused on the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto.

“I’ll be watching the All-Star Game [festivities} instead,” Giovinco said with a smile.

TFC II signs Liam Fraser
Toronto FC II announced Wednesday that it has signed midfielder Liam Fraser to a USL contract.

Fraser, 17, played in 10 matches (seven as a starter) during the 2015 USL regular season for Toronto FC II after being called up from the TFC senior youth academy team.

He is the ninth player from the youth academy to sign with Toronto FC II since the team’s inception in 2015. He originally joined TFC’s academy in 2013.

Robbie Findley won’t be back
After deciding not to re-sign Robbie Findley in the off-season, the out-of-contract forward went through the league’s re-entry draft process where he was not selected.

Since he wasn’t picked, any MLS team is now free to sign the veteran, including TFC who could negotiate to bring him back at a cheaper price (Findley earned $255,000 US last season). But Sportsnet was told that TFC won’t be bringing back Findley.