Toronto FC trades Laba to Whitecaps

Matias Laba, right, in action for Argentina's under-20 team. (AP)

Mattias Laba is leaving Toronto FC not for a year, but for good.

The Reds announced on Tuesday evening that they have traded the Argentine midfielder to the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for future considerations.

“Matias is a great pro and great person, but given our recent acquisitions, we were faced with the reality that he would not be able to play with TFC this season,” Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a news release.

Sources confirmed to Sporstnet on Monday night that TFC had agreed to send Laba on loan to the Whitecaps for the duration of the 2014 Major League Soccer season. The goal posts moved on Tuesday, though, and terms of the deal changed where Laba would join Vancouver on a permanent basis.

Laba, 22, was one of the few bright spots for TFC in 2013, joining the Reds as a young designated player last April from Argentinos Juniors in Argentina’s first division. Laba scored one goal in 16 league appearances, and won praise for his poised and mature play in anchoring Toronto’s midfield.

But the team was forced to move the Argentine elsewhere when it signed three new DPs this off-season: Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Gilberto. MLS teams are only allowed three DPs on their roster, which meant Laba was the odd man out.

TFC coach Ryan Nelsen said after signing Defoe and Bradley that the club would “move hell and high water” to keep Laba, a sentiment echoed by Bezbatchenko. The team looked at several possibilities, but in the end, it had to get the Argentine off its books by March 1 in order to be roster compliant ahead of the start of the 2014 MLS regular season.

Bezbatchenko said he recently sat down with Laba to discuss his future at the club and what his preference would be if he had to leave.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much playing time he’ll get under new coach Carl Robinson, who has several players vying for the defensive midfield role, including English veteran Nigel Reo-Coker and Ghanaian Gershon Koffie, two of the team’s top players.

Besides being a tough tackler, Laba also has an offensive upside, possessing neat passing skills and the ability to link the defence and attack.

“Matias is a promising young talent and we are excited to have him join our club,” Robinson said in a news release. “He is a hard, aggressive player who brings a lot of energy to the pitch and although he is only 22, he is a natural leader on the field.”

The Whitecaps open the season on March 8 when they host the New York Red Bulls.

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