Toronto FC loses Johnson, Williams to Orlando, Columbus

Will Johnson.

Toronto FC lost two players Thursday, with free agent midfielder Will Johnson headed to Orlando and defender Josh Williams taken by Columbus in Stage 2 of the MLS re-entry draft.

A source confirmed Johnson’s departure to Orlando with the deal announcement pending.

The 29-year-old Canadian international, whose lone season in Toronto was interrupted by a knee injury, started 19 games for the Reds and appeared in four others. A childhood friend of Toronto captain Michael Bradley, Johnson offered experience and some bite in midfield.

The move to Orlando reunites Johnson with coach Jason Kreis, who was in charge of Real Salt Lake during Johnson’s time there. Orlando is also home to Canadian striker Cyle Larin.

The 28-year-old Williams appeared in 15 games this season with 11 starts but found himself behind Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund when coach Greg Vanney switched to a three-man backline late in the season.

The two players’ departure frees up money under the salary cap. Johnson made US$395,333 last season while Williams earned US$131,500, according to the MLS Players Union.

Unlike Johnson, the out-of-contract Williams was eligible for the re-entry draft.

Houston, San Jose and Sporting Kansas City joined Columbus in making selections. After the Chicago Fire passed with the first overall pick, Houston took former Los Angeles Galaxy centre back Leonardo. Crew SC then selected Williams, who made 76 appearances for Columbus from 2010 to ’14, and San Jose used the fourth pick to pick former Real Salt Lake forward Olmes Garcia.

Sporting Kansas City, with the 12th overall selection, took goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra from D.C. United.

Johnson came to Toronto last December in a trade with Portland that sent a conditional second-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft and targeted allocation money to the Timbers.

The 10-year MLS veteran, who previously played for Real Salt Lake and Chicago, had two goals and five assists this season for Toronto.

Johnson has 27 career goals and 20 assists in 212 regular-season MLS games.

Players chosen in Stage 1 of the re-entry draft automatically had their MLS contracts picked up by the drafting clubs. Clubs taking players in Stage 2 can negotiate new deals.

The Montreal Impact were also active Thursday, dealing midfielder Harry Shipp to Seattle in exchange for general allocation money.

“We’re very excited to add a talented young player like Harry to our roster,” Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey said in a statement. “He’s a proven contributor in this league and someone who we think will be a great addition to locker room as we build off of an MLS Cup-winning season.”

After a promising start with the Chicago Fire, the 25-year-old Shipp never found a home with the Impact.

“This trade provides some salary cap flexibility while also allowing us to acquire GAM (general allocation money), which will help us shape our roster moving forward,” Impact technical director Adam Braz said in a statement.

Shipp, who made US$129,500 last season, had two goals and three assists in 27 games with the Impact.

Montreal had exercised its option on Shipp but did not protect him in the recent expansion draft.

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