Toronto FC looks to make moves as transfer window closes

Toronto FC gets Richie Laryea back after a three-month injury absence. (CP/AP-Jeff Dean)

TORONTO — Toronto FC is in discussions to bring in a player and move another out before Major League Soccer’s primary transfer window closes Tuesday.

General manager Jason Hernandez says the two moves are not related, however.

Hernandez also revealed that the club has made fullback Richie Laryea its third designated player. While Jonathan Osorio is listed on the club website as a DP, the GM said the club captain had agreed to restructure his contract to fit under the salary cap as a non-designated player.

Toronto had to be roster-compliant on Feb. 23, the eve of the regular season.

Under league rules, only US$683,750 of a designated player’s pay counts against the club’s salary budget of US$5.47 million (although devices like general and targeted allocation money allows clubs to reduce salary costs on the books).

Italians Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi are the team’s other designated players. Insigne was the league’s second-highest-paid player last season at US$15.4 million while Bernardeschi ranked No. 5 at US$6.295 million.

Osorio’s salary of US$1.4 million last season was third-highest on the club payroll.

Laryea spent 2023 on loan from England’s Nottingham Forest, first with Toronto and then Vancouver at a salary of US$1.436 million, according to the MLS Players Association. TFC reacquired the fullback/wingback in late February.

The price of getting Laryea back was such that the team needed to give him the DP tag to accommodate the “bulk of the transfer fee,” said Hernandez.

Laryea is currently sidelined after undergoing hamstring surgery.

The team does not have to use the DP tag on Osorio and won’t have to use it on Laryea either after this season, the GM added, so the club will have an open designated player spot next year.

The lack of transparency over Laryea as a DP evokes memories of a decade ago, when TFC announced it had sold Canadian international defender Doneil Henry to a club in Cyprus six months earlier. Since the sale wasn’t announced at the time and Henry remained with Toronto on loan for the remainder of the season, no one knew of the transaction until the club finally came clean.

Henry never ended up playing for Apollon Limassol, moving instead to England’s West Ham in early 2015.

Asked to characterize the player the club is targeting to bring in, Hernandez said he would be similar to Honduran midfielder Deybi Flores who signed in January — “a guy at a good age, of a good pedigree, that we imagine to be with us for several years, someone who’s going to be a core starter for us week in and week out and really impact winning.”

While he declined to detail what position the player is, he noted the cost of bringing in an elite striker and said the club is not looking to bring in a new designated player in the next 36 hours.

Hernandez said he hoped to get the player in sooner than later given the club’s recent spate of injuries.

“So any reinforcements we can bring at this moment of time, I think, will do us a lot of good,” he said.

Hernandez suggested more moves lie ahead as the club tries to get the right roster for the current coaching regime and management gets a better look at what it currently has as injured players return to action. That includes loan moves.

“Sometimes MLS can be a little bit of a slow-turning ship as far as roster evolution works, just because of all the different intricacies, complexities and constants on out roster and what we’re able to do or not do according to the rules,” he said.

Hernandez also confirmed the club will keep paying Adama Diomande’s salary until he lands with another club. The 34-year-old Norwegian forward, who was waived in February, earned US$585,000 last season.

As for the long injury list this season, with Insigne among those sidelined, Hernandez says the club has brought in longtime Canada Soccer physiotherapist Greg Bay as a consultant and taken “a bunch of steps … to try to reassess and re-address how we’re approaching our medical department holistically.”

Toronto, which finished bottom of the league last season at 4-20-10, currently sits fifth in the Eastern Conference at 4-4-1 under John Herdman.

“We feel real positive about call it the foundational steps we’ve taken … but we understand there’s a lot of work to do and a long way to go,” said Hernandez.

In other league news, Atlanta United announced Monday that it has hired former Toronto FC coach Javier Perez as its director of methodology, a newly created position to replace academy director.

Toronto promoted Perez from assistant coach to interim head coach when Chris Armas was fired after a 1-8-2 start to the 2021 season. Perez coached the rest of the campaign but did not return the next season when Bob Bradley was put in charge as head coach and sporting director.

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