Toronto FC said goodbye to one of its own on Thursday, dealing homegrown product Jordan Hamilton to Columbus Crew SC for American striker Patrick Mullins.
Toronto also gave up an international roster spot for this season, US$50,000 in targeted allocation money and the right of first refusal for an unidentified player.
It’s a change of scenery for both players — something new for Hamilton, a 23-year-old Toronto native whose only time away from home was a 2014 loan spell in Portugal.
“He is a young man with a lot of talent and a lot of potential and upside,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney, who was academy director when Hamilton turned pro.
“While it’s a tough one for us to see, I think in order for Jordan to really fulfill his potential and his ability, he has to go and try something fresh and new — somewhere where he is a little less comfortable to really push his boundaries.”
In essence, the trade involves two players who have not met high expectations.
Hamilton came up through the TFC academy, and was 18 when he made his first-team debut and won his first cap for Canada. He leaves Toronto with 15 goals and four assists in 66 appearances, with 15 goals and four assists in all competitions.
“Growing up in Scarborough, it was a dream to play for this city,” Hamilton tweeted. “It will always be home for me. I’m truly blessed to have had 8 years with TFC and I am looking forward to a new chapter in my career with columbuscrewsc. Thank you Toronto.”
Mullins, 27, was twice named winner of the MAC Hermann Trophy as the top male NCAA soccer player while at the University of Maryland, where he scored 47 goals and added 35 assists in 92 career matches.
He has 24 goals with 11 assists in 122 MLS regular-season and playoff appearances.
Vanney says Mullins brings physicality, mobility, experience and a good work ethic to the team.
“A guy who’s been around our league and knows the league, and has produced in the league as well,” Vanney added. “And [he brings] some new energy, some competition in training, some competition within the group.”
Mullins is no stranger to pulling up stakes. Drafted 11th overall by New England in 2014, he had stints with New York City FC and D.C. United before joining Columbus last July.
Mullins said he liked what he heard from the Toronto braintrust.
“They told me how excited they were to have me and that they thought that there was a really good opportunity for me to show what I’ve shown in MLS previously with some of the opportunities at clubs I’ve had,” he said after his first training session on Thursday.
Mullins roomed with Toronto winger Nick DeLeon at D.C. United and played with Tsubasa Endoh while at Maryland.
The deal reunites Hamilton with former Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, who is now Columbus’s president and GM.
“In Jordan, we have a young forward who has not only won trophies at the club level, but who also has experience competing at the international level with Canada and will provide depth in our attack,” Bezbatchenko said in a statement.
Hamilton signed as a Toronto homegrown player in January, 2014. In recent years, his playing time has been limited by the presence of Jozy Altidore and the now-departed Sebastian Giovinco.
He has shown flashes of real talent in front of goal, but not often enough.
“Having come up through our academy, Jordan has been with our club for many years, which made this decision that much more difficult,” Curtis said. “Ultimately, we believe this decision is best for both Jordan and Toronto FC.”
Toronto declined his contract option last November, but signed him to a new deal in January that pays him $137,659 this season. For Hamilton, given the departure of Tosaint Ricketts and Lucas Janson, it was an opportunity to establish himself as first choice behind Altidore.
He has four goals in 14 appearances (seven starts) this season, but Toronto opted to shift Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo up front, most recently in the absence of Altidore owing to the Gold Cup.
Mullins was acquired by Columbus in a trade with D.C. United for $150,000 in targeted allocation money. He has yet to score in nine games (two starts) this season.
He is making $260,004 this season, according to the MLS Players’ Association. A source confirmed that Columbus will retain a significant portion of his salary cost.
Toronto has been looking for more offensive punch behind Altidore.
Altidore (five goals in nine games) and Pozuelo (seven goals in 16 games) have carried most of the goal-scoring load with DeLeon chipping in with four in 19 games.
Terrence Boyd is scoreless in 11 games this season while fellow forward Ayo Akinola has one goal in eight games.
Toronto (6-8-5) visits the Montreal Impact (9-9-3) on Saturday.