Colombian club wants TFC’s Jonathan Osorio on loan in 2019

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Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio. (CP)

Jonathan Osorio’s career season with Toronto FC in 2018 didn’t go unnoticed in South America.

Sportsnet has learned that Deportivo Independiente Medellin, one of the top clubs in Colombia, is interested in acquiring the TFC midfielder for a season-long loan in 2019.

“I am going to formally ask the Toronto FC top brass to get Jonathan Osorio to join us for next season on loan. We have qualified for Copa Libertadores and need to strengthen our roster,” Independiente Medellin coach Octavio Zambrano told Sportsnet.

“It would be great for him to compete at the highest level in South America.”

Zambrano said he’d also be open to bringing Osorio in for a shorter loan period. Zambrano added he would want Osorio to join Independiente Medellin after the Canadian international recovers from his recent surgery, but 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.

“I have spoken with Oso and his representative; playing [in the] Copa Libertadores and living in Medellin is an attractive proposition for Oso, but his representative is skeptical about TFC letting him go,” Zambrano admitted.

Nonetheless, Zambrano has reached out to Tim Bezbatchenko and explained they have arranged to talk this week, pending the TFC general manager’s return from Europe, about the possibility of the Reds sending Osorio on loan to Independiente Medellin.

“My interest remains and I have a place for him in the team,” Zambrano stated.

Toronto FC declined to comment when reached by Sportsnet.

The Colombian first division season is divided into two tournaments, the Apertura and Finalización. Independiente Medellin is set to compete in the semifinals of the Finalización tournament versus Deportes Tolima, who won the final of the Apertura tournament in June.

Independiente Medellin also recently qualified to play in the next year’s Copa Libertadores. Competing in both the Colombian first division and South American soccer’s biggest club competition will take a toll on Independiente Medellin in its current state, so Zambrano wants to strengthen his roster to give his team a better chance of achieving domestic and continental success.

Zambrano believes Osorio, whose parents are Colombian, can help Independiente Medellin in that regard, and it’s not difficult to understand why he feels that way.

Osorio enjoyed the best year of his career in 2018, scoring 17 goals and tallying eight assists in 43 games in all competitions for Toronto. His 10 goals in MLS ranked second on TFC behind Sebastian Giovinco (15).

Osorio 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.

A 26-year-old native of Brampton, Ont., 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. His old contract was set to expire at the end of the 2018 MLS season. Terms of the new contract with Toronto 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 $504,375 US.

Considering the lengths TFC went to extend Osorio and his importance to the team this past campaign, it’ll be interesting to see how it responds to Zambrano’s loan request.

Osorio underwent sports hernia surgery earlier this month, but he is expected to be ready for pre-season training with TFC in January. The surgery did, however, prevent him from being able to play for Canada on Sunday against Saint Kitts and Nevis in a Concacaf Nations League qualifier. Canada won 1-0.

The midfielder 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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