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Soccer Toronto FC sends defender Gregory van der Wiel home after altercation with coach

Toronto FC defender Gregory van der Wiel controls the ball against Atlanta United FC midfielder Ezequiel Barco, at BMO Field, in Toronto, on Oct. 28, 2018.

John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Toronto FC’s eventful pre-season took another turn Wednesday when Dutch international defender Gregory van der Wiel was sent home from training camp in California.

A source said van der Wiel had been dismissed after an altercation with coach Greg Vanney.

A club spokesman confirmed van der Wiel had indeed left camp and said Toronto was trying to find a new home for the 30-year-old defender, either inside or outside MLS.

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In an Instagram posting, van der Wiel displayed a flight route from Los Angeles to Toronto.

Van der Wiel, who made US$835,000 in his one season with TFC, played 27 games (25 starts) last season in a variety of positions across the Toronto backline.

His resume includes Ajax, Paris Saint-Germain, Turkey’s Fenerbahce and Italy’s Cagliari.

Toronto’s training camp opened last week with a bang with news that Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez was leaving to join a club in Qatar. Star striker Sebastian Giovinco also caused a minor ruckus when he told reporters that there was “serious talk” of an offer from another club, forcing Toronto to deny that it had received any formal offer.

Giovinco and fellow designated player Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are all in the last year of their contracts.

Prior to camp opening, GM Tim Bezbatchenko left to become president of Columbus Crew SC with Ali Curtis succeeding him as Toronto GM.

Earlier Wednesday, Toronto set the stage for a possible player acquisition, making a deal with expansion FC Cincinnati for first position in Major League Soccer’s allocation order.

Toronto also acquired US$300,000 in allocation money ($200,000 in general allocation money in 2019 and $100,000 in targeted allocation money in 2020) in the Cincinnati deal, sending defender Nick Hagglund and Toronto’s 24th position in the allocation order in exchange.

There was some confusion over the amount of allocation money involved in the deal, with the official news release initially pegging it at $250,000. An updated version increased it to $300,000.

“This deal gives us flexibility on our budget both in the short– and long-term, ” Curtis said in a statement. “In addition, the No. 1 allocation ranking gives us the option of acquiring another player and/or asset either during this transfer window or in the summer.”

Major League Soccer uses the allocation process as its way of acquiring select U.S. internationals, elite youth U.S. internationals or former MLS players returning to the league after joining a non-MLS club for a transfer fee greater than $500,000.

The allocation ranking is set by taking the reverse order of the club’s standings at the end of each MLS season, with the expansion clubs at the top of the order.

Once the club uses its allocation ranking to acquire a player, it drops to the bottom of the list. Teams can trade rankings, provided that part of the compensation received in return is the other club’s ranking.

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Toronto made a similar deal in December with San Jose, jumping to No. 2 in the allocation ranking order in exchange for US$75,000 in general allocation money, $75,000 in targeted allocation money and the No. 6 allocation spot.

Toronto subsequently sent a second-round pick to FC Cincinnati to move up one spot to the top of the allocation ranking. It then used the allocation process to sign former MLS defender of the year Laurent Ciman, who had left the league to play in France.

The 26-year-old Hagglund, a Cincinnati native, has been with Toronto since being taken in the first round (10th overall) in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. In five seasons with Toronto, Hagglund made a combined 115 appearances with six goals and six assists.

“We are thrilled to add Nick to our roster,” FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch said in a statement. “He has been part of a team that has captured an MLS Cup championship and knows what is required to achieve and sustain success in this league. We look forward to his return to Cincinnati and seeing him embrace this opportunity to play for his hometown.”

Hagglund is the first player from Cincinnati to join the expansion team.

Under terms of the deal, should Toronto FC trade the No. 1 allocation ranking for allocation money, Cincinnati will receive half of the money acquired. And should Cincinnati trade Hagglund prior to the close of the 2019 primary transfer window, it will send an additional $50,000 in general allocation money in 2020.

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A popular member of the Toronto team, Hagglund saw action in 20 games last season with 15 starts. A force in the air, he had three goals in 2018.

Hagglund scored one of the biggest goals in club history in the 2016 playoffs against the Montreal Impact. His headed goal with 22 minutes remaining in regulation time tied up the Eastern Conference final at 5-5 aggregate, sending it to extra time where goals by Benoit Cheyrou and Tosaint Ricketts sealed the Toronto win.

Toronto is well-stocked at centre back with Ciman, Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga and Eriq Zavaleta with Justin Morrow also available as cover.

It has other needs.

TFC was left a hole in its midfield with the departure of Vazquez. The club is also short on depth up front behind Giovinco and Altidore.

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