Colombian club waits to hear from TFC on Osorio loan request


Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio. (Frank Gunn/CP)

TORONTO – Octavio Zambrano has made the formal request. Now the coach of Colombian club Deportivo Independiente Medellin is just waiting to hear back from Toronto FC.

Zambrano exchanged text messages with TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko last week about the possibility of the Reds sending Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio on loan to Independiente Medellin next season.

Zambrano also reached out directly to Osorio and his agent, and said there was “genuine interest” from both of them about a possible loan arrangement.

“I’m supposed to get an answer [from TFC] on the matter after they speak internally amongst themselves,” Zambrano told Sportsnet.

He later added: “I am not giving up on Oso.”

Zambrano would want Osorio to join Independiente Medellin before the start of the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the UEFA Champions League. The group stage of the 2019 Copa Libertadores kicks off in March, with the final scheduled for Nov. 23 in Santiago, Chile.

The proposed loan deal would be for roughly six months, allowing Osorio to play for Independiente Medellin in the Copa Libertadores, a portion of the Copa Colombia (Colombian Cup), and the first half of Colombia’s domestic season. Zambrano would also want an option to extend the proposed loan agreement depending on Independiente Medellin’s progress in the Copa Libertadores.

The Colombian first division campaign is divided into two tournaments, the Apertura (which runs from February to June) and the Finalización (July to December).

Competing in the Colombian first division and Copa Colombia, as well as the Copa Libertadores next year will take a toll on Independiente Medellin in its current state. Zambrano wants to strengthen his roster by signing Osorio on loan to give his team a better chance of achieving domestic and continental success.

Not only would Osorio help out Independiente Medellin, but Zambrano believes the Canadian “would grow tremendously as a player” by playing in Colombia’s top division and in the Copa Libertadores.

“The Copa Libertadores [would be] a great environment for him,” Zambrano offered.

Toronto FC declined to comment when contacted by Sportsnet.

It’s not difficult to understand why Zambrano is so interested in bringing the TFC midfielder to Colombia.

Osorio, a 26-year-old native of Brampton, Ont., enjoyed the best year of his career in 2018, scoring 17 goals and tallying eight assists in 43 games across all competition for Toronto. His 10 goals in MLS ranked second on TFC behind Sebastian Giovinco (15).

He won the Golden Boot award as the top scorer in the CONCACAF Champions League and he was named to the tournament’s all-star team, playing a pivotal role in helping the Reds reach the finals. He also claimed the George Gross Memorial Trophy given to the MVP of the Canadian Championship tournament, as Toronto won the competition for a third consecutive year.

Osorio signed a new long-term contract with TFC in August that made him “one of the highest-paid Canadian players in the world,” according to club president Bill Manning. Terms of the new contract were not released at the time, but the team did use a special pot of money available to MLS clubs known as targeted allocation money, or TAM, to re-sign Osorio. The use of TAM means his new deal is worth more than the league’s maximum salary cap hit of US$504,375.

Considering the lengths Toronto went to extend Osorio and his importance to the team this past campaign, it’ll be interesting to see how the MLS club responds to Zambrano’s loan request. Considering Osorio’s parents are Colombian, and he has family who lives in the country, it’ll also be interesting to see how much pressure, if any at all, he puts on TFC to send him on loan to Independiente Medellin.

Osorio has three goals and three assists in 22 appearances (15 as a starter) for Canada since making his national team debut in 2013 under Colin Miller, who was the interim coach at the time. After falling out of favour with Benito Floro, Osorio was welcomed back into the national team fold by Zambrano, who coached Canada from March 2017 to January 2018.

Zambrano has further connections to TFC other than having coached Osorio at international level. The Ecuadorian-born manager also coached the LA Galaxy from 1997 to 1999 in MLS, and one of his players was current Toronto boss Greg Vanney. TFC assistants Dan Calichman and Robin Fraser also played with Vanney in Los Angeles under Zambrano.

Founded in 1913, Deportivo Independiente Medellin has won six domestic league titles, the last coming in 2016 when it won the opening Apertura tournament. Independiente Medellin has never won the Copa Libertadores – its best showing was a semifinal appearance in 2003. The club’s current roster is made up almost exclusively of Colombian players.

Based in Colombia’s second-largest city, Independiente Medellin shares its home stadium with city rivals Atlético Nacional, which is the most successful club in Colombia, with 16 domestic league titles. Nacional was also the first Colombian team to win the Copa Libertadores in 1989. It won the Copa a second time in 2016, making it the most successful Colombian side in the tournament’s history.

Zambrano took over the coaching reins at Independiente Medellin in June after being replaced by John Herdman as coach of the Canadian national team in January.


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