Toronto FC has rewarded goalkeeper Alex Bono with a new contract.
The 24-year-old from Baldwinsville, N.Y., established himself as the club’s first-choice ‘keeper in 2017 and helped the team to the MLS championship last season and the CONCACAF Champions League final in April.
"It’s an unbelievable feeling for me," Bono said.
"I’m very excited, I’m very happy that I get to stay in Toronto," he added. "I love the city, I love the club, I love the guys. So it’s a really, really happy day for me."
The new deal comes amidst speculation of European club interest in Bono, a talented shot-stopper.
"There was interest and it was serious," said Costa Smyrniotis, Bono’s agent.
But Toronto and Bono, who won his first U.S. cap in a 3-0 win over Bolivia on May 28, wanted to strengthen their bond.
"Ultimately both sides were keen on getting things done," said Smyrniotis. "It was very professional."
"He loves this city and the club," Smyrniotis added. "He wanted to be here and Toronto FC made it clear with their actions they wanted him as their No. 1 for years to come."
The deal likely restores order to the financial pecking order among Toronto ‘keepers. Bono was making US$102,200 this season, according to the MLS Players Association. That’s less than backup Clint Irwin, the former No. 1 who is earning $221,312.
Bono entered the league with a Generation Adidas contract, given to a select few talented underclassmen. He paid tribute to goalkeeper coach Jon Conway, saying he was "really raw and undeveloped" when he first came to Toronto.
Bono is the latest TFC player to be locked up. Toronto also handed out new contracts to defenders Justin Morrow and Chris Mavinga and playmaker Victor Vazquez earlier this year.
Bono was selected in the first round (sixth overall) in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Toronto FC. He has played 60 regular-season and playoff games for Toronto with 19 shutouts.
"Alex was a big part of our success last season," Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. "He set club (regular-season) records for wins (19) and clean sheets (10) and was a critical piece of our championship team.
"Since joining the club as a first-round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success."
Bono also holds Toronto FC’s record for wins across all competitions (37).
Bono’s record this season is 7-6-5, with four shutouts, in MLS and CONCACAF Champions League play.
"His brightest years are still very much ahead of him," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney.