Toronto FC officially parted ways with English midfielder Hogan Ephraim on Tuesday while opening its doors — if only as a temporary courtesy — to another Queens Park Rangers player.
Forward David (Junior) Hoilett, a native of Brampton, Ont., and his younger brother Jaineil, who plays in Germany, are training temporarily with the MLS team before returning to their respective clubs’ training camp in Europe.
“No story there,” Toronto assistant coach Fran O’Leary said with a smile. “Just friends of Ryan’s coming in to get sharp before preseason. No story unfortunately.”
Ryan Nelsen played at QPR before taking over as Toronto FC manager earlier this year.
It could be the closest fans here see of Hoilett in a Canadian team uniform.
While Jaineil has represented Canada at the under-20 level, Junior has yet to decide his international allegiance. He’s also eligible for Jamaica and has reportedly said he would consider England if he met the requirements.
Asked Tuesday about where his international future lies, the pocket-sized speedster smiled and said: “My lips are sealed right now.”
A polite Hoilett had little to say to reporters but spoke admiringly about Toronto’s practice facility (“Better than our facility back at QPR”), training and players, and said he was committed to helping QPR fight its way back to England’s top tier following relegation.
“It was a difficult season, of course,” he said. “We underperformed and it’s been a tough season. But we’re going to try to fight hard and get back in the Premier League where we belong.”
Hoilett, who turns 23 on Wednesday, plans to train with Toronto for a few weeks to prepare for QPR’s preseason, which opens in early July.
The 21-year-old Jaineil plays for a lower-tier German side.
Nelsen himself missed Tuesday’s sunny practice. He’s in Europe, combining a scouting trip with helping move has family to Toronto. Chief scout Pat Onstad and president Kevin Payne are on the road in Argentina while O’Leary is headed to Spain next.
“We’re trying to add some real quality in this next (transfer) window,” said O’Leary. “But we want to make sure we get the right ones.”
The club announcement on Ephraim came several hours after the player landed in London. He had tweeted on the weekend that QPR wanted to end his loan spell so he would be “refreshed” for preseason.
“Toronto it has been a pleasure - unbelievable people and treated me so well #muchlove,” he tweeted.
Ephraim had limited success in Toronto this season as a winger and attacking midfielder, showing some nice touches without being able to put his stamp on games. He saw action in 11 matches, starting nine.
Toronto (1-7-5), winless in 11 league games, has the weekend off before visiting D.C. United (1-10-2) on June 15.
O’Leary, like other members of the coaching staff, was nothing but positive Tuesday despite the recent run. Toronto’s most recent result was a disappointing 1-1 tie with the visiting Philadelphia Union, thanks to a goal conceded in second-half stoppage time.
“What do you do when you’re in a difficult spell?” O’Leary asked. “You just keep your head down, you keep working.
“I think (from) the response of the fans, that’s what they saw. They saw a team that was vibrant, was fighting for them, was fighting for Toronto FC. And I think we’ll keep doing that and results will turn here.
“We’ll add a little more quality. ... This thing will turn. We’re a competitive team now. We’ll start turning these performances into points sooner than later.”
Striker Danny Koevermans and midfielder Terry Dunfield are both expected to play for the Toronto reserve side on Friday night in Pittsburgh against the Riverhounds, a USL Pro team.
Koevermans, who was sidelined by knee surgery, got his first taste of first-team action in more than 10 months Saturday when the Dutch star came on as a substitute in the 86th minute against Philadelphia.
Dunfield, meanwhile, is back after suffering a hyperextended knee.
Notes: O’Leary said it was too early to say how much action Koevermans would see at D.C. United. ... Captain-defender Darren O’Dea (Ireland) and midfielder Reggie Lambe (Bermuda) are away on international duty. Goalie Stefan Frei (hamstring) and defenders Logan Emory (foot) and Richard Eckersley (hamstring) also missed practice Tuesday.Report Typo/Error