Toronto FC headed to San Diego in search of warm weather during training camp. Mother Nature has not co-operated so far.
Head coach Bob Bradley says the team has had to “improvise” of late because of heavy rain that has affected field conditions at the University of California San Diego.
“Hopefully by [Wednesday] we can get back into more of the regular kind of trainings that we started with,” Bradley told a virtual availability Tuesday. “I thought we were off to a good start, the group in a good way establishing some football ideas, pushing things along.”
The weather has forced the MLS team, now in its second week of training in California, to retreat to the gym at times in search of a workout.
San Diego was dealing with winter weather, wind, high surf and coastal flood advisories Tuesday not to mention lower-than-normal temperatures, albeit with a forecast high of 15 degrees Celsius (feeling like 13 C).
Off the field, the search for a goalkeeper continues for Bradley with the off-season departure of Alex Bono (who signed with D.C. United) and Quentin Westberg (Atlanta United).
The only keepers in camp are 22-year-old Tomas Romero, a former LAFC player acquired via the MLS re-entry draft in November, and 18-year-old Adisa De Rosario, a TFC 2 player who spent time last season with HFX Wanderers FC of the CPL. De Rosario is the son of Dwayne De Rosario, a star for both Canada and TFC.
Greg Ranjitsingh, who was the team’s third-string ‘keeper last season, is back in Toronto recovering from a non-COVID illness. Luka Gavran, a 22-year-old TFC 2 ‘keeper who taken in the second round of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, is dealing with a wrist injury.
Free agent Sean Johnson, who spent the last six seasons with New York City FC, has been linked to Toronto “As everyone knows, we’ve been working hard to try to finalize the No. 1 slot with somebody that we think gives us just the right combination of abilities and experience to really help us,” said Bradley.
Johnson made US$550,000 last season and is likely looking for a sizable raise. St. Louis City FC’s Roman Burki was listed as making US$1,632,470 while already under contract in 2022 with the expansion team that joins the league this year, according to the MLS Players Association.
Burki, a 32-year-old Swiss international goalkeeper, signed with St Louis in May on a free transfer after seven seasons and 232 appearances for Germany’s Borussia Dortmund.
The 33-year-old Johnson, who has won 10 caps for the U.S. and was on the American World Cup roster in Qatar, had 14 shutouts last season – second only to Andre Blake’s 15 with Philadelphia. Toronto, which tied a franchise record in conceding 66 goals during the 2022 season, managed just three clean sheets.
Blake earned US$869,375 last season, compared to US$550,000 for Bono and US$313,585 for Westberg.
Newcomers this year include former MLS Defender of the Year Matt Hedges and veteran forward Adama Diomande. Toronto also brought attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez back into the fold after a four-year absence from the club and re-signed Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio.
Diomande is working out in Toronto as the team attends to his visa.
Bradley, who coached the 32-year-old Norwegian with Los Angeles FC and Norway’s Stabaek, sees Diomande as adding a different kind of forward threat to a strike force that includes Spain’s Jesus Jimenez and Canadians Ayo Akinola and Jordan Perruzza.
“Dio is a striker that has speed. He’s strong. He’s got good timing to get into the [penalty] box,” said Bradley.
“He’s a good guy in the group,” he added. “He’s got a strong personality. He’s experienced. He’s smart. I’m hopeful that we can turn it into a player who can make a big difference for us and add a lot to our team.”
Italian winger Federico Bernardeschi has been slowed by “groin-type issues that we want to get under control,” said Bradley.
Joining Bono and Westberg out the door were defenders Domenico Criscito (Genoa, Italy), Chris Mavinga (LA Galaxy), Doneil Henry (Minnesota United) and Luca Petrasso (Orlando City), midfielders Noble Okello and Jacob Shaffelburg (Nashville) and forward Ifunanyachi Achara (Houston Dynamo). TFC also formally said goodbye to Auro, who spent last season on loan in his native Brazil.
Bradley said more arrivals and likely departures are coming.
“We’re still in the midst of different discussions. Obviously some signings are still out there for us with the possibility of improving also in different positions. I think we’re also very clear about the possibility that they may need to be some moves out.”
The departures, some likely salary cap-related, could come via loans, MLS trades or transfers outside the league, he said.
“A lot is still on the table as we work through things,” Bradley added.
Toronto opens the regular season Feb. 23 at D.C. United in a meeting of the two worst teams in 2022. D.C. (7-21-6) was last in the then-28-team league, seven points behind Toronto (9-18-7).