Toronto FC moved to strengthen its roster Thursday, finalizing a deal to bring fullback Richie Laryea back into the fold.
The 27-year-old from Toronto spent three seasons in TFC colours before being sold to Nottingham Forest in January. But he saw limited playing time in England’s second tier, unable to crack a Forest lineup on a winning run under manager Steve Cooper, who led the team to promotion.
Toronto coach Bob Bradley, who doubles as the team’s sporting director, said the deal to bring back Laryea was “far” down the road.
“It’s not quite finished but I think we’re all optimistic that the main parts are done,” he said after training Thursday.
A deadline was looming with the MLS secondary transfer window closing at end of day.
The move fills a hole at right fullback for Toronto while giving Laryea a place to play in the lead-up to the November World Cup in Qatar.
Bradley said he expects the Laryea move to be a loan initially with the player expected to arrive later Thursday. Toronto (6-12-5) plays at Nashville SC (8-7-9) on Saturday.
Laryea made 83 appearances across all competitions with nine goals and 12 assists for Toronto. He earned US$226,950 last season with TFC.
He was one of 22 players from last year’s first team to move on.
Laryea didn’t make his Forest debut until April 18, coming off the bench in the 79th minute in a 4-0 win over West Bromwich Albion. And with Forest strengthening its roster for its return to the Premier League — reportedly spending more than 80 million pounds (C$124.9 million) on 12 players — the competition for playing time was growing considerably.
Toronto set the stage for his return by sending Jacob Shaffelburg out on loan to Nashville on Tuesday in exchange for US$225,000 in general allocation money. Nashville also received an international roster spot and the right to make the loan move permanent in 2023.
If the move does come to fruition, Laryea joins Italians Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi and Domenico Criscito as well as fellow Canadians Mark Anthony-Kaye and Doneil Henry in joining TFC during the transfer window. Alejandro Pozuelo (Inter Miami), Ralph Priso and Shaffelburg went the other way.
Drafted seventh overall out of the University of Akron by Orlando City in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, Laryea saw action in just 21 regular-season games over three seasons and had his contract option declined by Orlando in November 2018.
Out of a job with a baby on the way, Laryea’s future was uncertain.
Then came the call from Toronto. Laryea earned a contract after impressing then coach Greg Vanney on trial during the 2019 pre-season, earning kudos in making the move from midfielder to fullback.
On the international front, Laryea has won 30 caps for Canada including 25 starts.
Fullback has been an issue for Toronto this season with veteran Justin Morrow retiring to join the team’; s front office and Brazil’s Auro, on loan with Brazil’s Santos, and Laryea departing.
Bradley started the season by repurposing Canadian youngsters Kosi Thompson, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Luca Petrasso and Shaffelburg at fullback/wingback.
Criscito arrived in July, taking over at left fullback.
In other TFC news, the club confirmed that captain Michael Bradley, Bob’s son, is actually in the third year of a four-year contract signed in December 2019. At the time, the team said the veteran midfielder had signed a three-year deal plus an option.
Bradley, who turned 35 on July 1, is making US$1.5 million this season.
And Insigne and Bernardeschi threw onlookers a curve Thursday by switching hairdos. Bernardeschi, who had been sporting a blond tint, returned to his natural darker colour while Insigne went blond.
“It’s hard to keep up,” said Bob Bradley, before adding: “I’ve got it figured out.”
Bradley, like son Michael, has no hair.