TORONTO — While Toronto FC has Italian star Lorenzo Insigne’s signature on a pre-contract that will bring him to MLS in July, there are still plenty of moving parts as the club prepares to hold player medicals this weekend.
Of the team’s three designated players, only Alejandro Pozuelo is expected to be on hand at the start of training camp, according to coach Bob Bradley. Question marks remain over the future of Jozy Altidore and Yeferson Soteldo, with Toronto needing to thin its designated player ranks to make room for Insigne.
“As everyone knows, TFC has (ongoing) discussions about different options for different players,” Bradley said. “I still think that there’s a lot going on and it’s not easy to say yet how different things will play out.”
The team is also considering requests from national teams.
World Cup qualifiers are looming in the FIFA international window that straddles January and February. Jamaica (Kemar Lawrence) and Venezuela (Soteldo) have asked about getting players in for advance camps.
“That means the group of players that will be around for physicals this weekend will still be not 100 per cent,” said Bradley.
TFC will head to California on Tuesday in search of some warm weather, with another camp stint in Austin, Texas, ahead of the Feb. 26 season opener in Dallas.
In need of stiffening a defence that conceded a franchise-worst 66 goals last season, Toronto has been linked to Mexican defender Carlos Salcedo, currently with Mexico’s Tigres UANL.
There are other holes to fill as TFC looks to reinforce its ranks ahead of Insigne’s arrival in the summer after his contract with Italy’s Napoli expires.
“We’re all thrilled. Lorenzo is a great player and a real personality,” said Bradley. “Obviously the connection with our fans is so important _ the response when the announcement came out last week was incredible.
“I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had the opportunity to coach some great players. And Lorenzo’s right up there with the best of the guys that I’ve coached. When a player like that comes in, it’s exciting for the club, it’s exciting for the fan base, the city, so that part’s awesome.”
Bradley is assembling his coaching staff with Carlo Valladares, who worked with Bradley at Los Angeles FC, coming on board as video analyst.
“There’s still a lot going on when it comes to staffing but things are moving along.” said Bradley.
Toronto added two new faces via Tuesday’s MLS SuperDraft, taking St. John’s goalkeeper Luka Gavran in the second round (31st overall) and Texas Rio Grande Valley forward Reshaun Walkes in the third (59th).
Both are local products with Gavran from Hamilton and Walkes from Brampton.
Gavran, who stands between 6-5 and 6-6, tied for the NCAA Division I lead in shutouts (12) and ranked third in goals-against average (0.59) last season when he was named Big East Goalkeeper of the Year.
Bradley, who goes back a long way with St. John’s coach Dave Masur, says the towering ‘keeper comes with good reviews.
“I think everyone saw a really talented young goalkeeper,” said Bradley.
Toronto has veteran ‘keepers Quentin Westberg and Alex Bono under contract. Both have served as No. 1 in the past.
Asked if he wants some clarity on his starter, Bradley said he wants to see his ‘keepers in action in pre-season
“I need a chance to see guys every day . . And then from there, I’ll be able to have a better idea of how we move forward,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting on the field and seeing how guys go about their business every day.”
After just two seasons at UTRGV, Walkes ranks seventh in program history in career points (35) and goals (14), ninth in shots (55), and sixth in goals per match (. 056).
“He’s a goal-scorer. He’s athletic, he’s a threat and I like the way when he gets in certain situations that he finishes,” said Bradley.