TFC adds defensive depth with signing of Mavinga

Chris Mavinga, left, in action for French cliub Troyes. (Lionel Cironneau/AP)

Needing to add some depth to the backline after a series of off-season defections, Toronto FC bolstered its defence with the addition of fullback Chris Mavinga on Tuesday.

Terms of the deal were not released, but it’s believed he has been signed to a three-year contract. Mavinga will be officially added to TFC’s roster upon receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and his Canadian work permit. The Reds are currently in pre-season training camp in California where Mavinga is expected to join up with the team.

Mavinga, 25, was once on the books at both Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain, but the young prodigy never made a single senior team appearance for either side.

Mavinga has also played for Genk in Belgium, Rennes in France and Rubin Kazan in Russia. He transferred to Rubin Kazan in 2013, but only played a handful of games with the Russian club. He spent the last two seasons on loan in France with Ligue Un outfits Stade Reims and Troyes.

Although born in France, Mavinga played a handful of games for his home country at various youth levels, before making his debut for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has earned four caps for Congo since 2015, although he did not get called up for the African Cup of Nations tournament currently being staged in Gabon.

The addition of Mavinga comes in the wake of a series of off-season defensive setbacks by Toronto. Defenders Mark Bloom (taken by Atlanta in the expansion draft) and Josh Williams (selected by Columbus in the re-entry draft) left the club, as did defensive midfielder Will Johnson, who explored free agency and signed with Orlando.

Although primarily a left fullback, Mavinga can also play in the centre of defence, and thus he should give Toronto coach Greg Vanney some tactical flexibility—look for him to play on the left side of the back line when the Reds are in a 3-5-2 formation, or in the centre of a four-man defence alongside Drew Moor.

At six-feet, Mavinga should provide a physical presence in Toronto’s defence. Notably, he’s left-footed—Moor, and fellow centre-backs Nick Hagglund and Eriq Zavaleta are all right-footed.

One would also think that Mavinga’s arrival means that rookie centre back Brandon Aubrey, selected 21st overall at the SuperDraft earlier this month, will have a much harder path towards making the first team and earning regular playing time in MLS.

How good is Mavinga? It’s fair to say that he hasn’t quite lived up to the promise he once showed when he was a youngster. He’s bounced around between teams in several European leagues, failing to settle in any one place for a stretch of time. As such, TFC appears to be taking a gamble on him.

But he does have a bit of experience under his belt, both at club and country level. He’s also joining TFC early on in the pre-season, giving him ample time to settle in with Toronto before the start of the 2017 MLS campaign.

TFC opens the regular season on March 4, away to Real Salt Lake.


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