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Toronto FC centre back Lukas MacNaughton during a game against Inter Miami CF, at DRV PNK Stadium, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on April 20, 2022.Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Toronto FC added experience up front Tuesday in veteran forward CJ Sapong, giving up defensive cover in centre back Lukas MacNaughton and up to US$200,000 in general allocation money to Nashville SC to get him.

Toronto (1-2-6) has been short up front with Adama Diomande sidelined by injury since the second game of the season. Coach Bob Bradley has rotated between Deandre Kerr, Jordan Perruzza and Ayo Akinola and, on the weekend, gave Italian star Lorenzo Insigne a more fluid, forward role.

“CJ has qualities that can help,” said Bradley. “He’s an unselfish (No.) 9. He gets in the (penalty) box. He works for the team. He can hold the ball. He’s a physical presence.”

Bradley believes Sapong will occupy defenders and open up space. That can only help Italian wingers Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi to work their magic.

Bradley, who doubles as Toronto’s sporting director, said Sapong’s acquisition is not related to the health of Diomande, saying the veteran Norwegian forward is back training and could see playing time Saturday against visiting New York City FC (4-2-3).

The 34-year-old Sapong has 88 goals and 34 assists in 350 regular-season appearances with Nashville, Chicago, Philadelphia and Sporting Kansas City, which took him in the first round (10th overall) of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.

TFC gives up US$125,000 in 2024 general allocation money (GAM) and an additional $75,000 in conditional 2025 GAM if Sapong meets certain performance metrics.

Toronto then filled MacNaughton’s hole on the roster by acquiring 24-year-old defender Aime Mabika from Inter Miami CF through 2023 with options for 2024 and 2025. In exchange, Toronto sent US$100,000 in 2024 general allocation money plus an additional US$100,000 in conditional GAM if performance-based metrics are met and a sell-on percentage for Mabika.

Mabika was originally selected by Miami in the first round (26th overall) of the 2021 MLS SuperDraft. He spent the 2021 season with Inter Miami CF II, formerly Fort Lauderdale CF, in USL League One. Mabika then signed a first-team deal with Miami in January, making 18 appearances across all competitions in his first season with the MLS club.

“Physically, as a young defender, he’s got really good starting points,” said Bradley.

Toronto said the trades were agreed to prior to Monday’s close of the primary transfer window.

Sapong made US$550,000 last season, according to the MLS Players Association. Bradley said Toronto will not be paying the whole shot, with Nashville contributing. McNaughton earned US$86,100 and Mabika US$73,625 last season.

The 28-year-old MacNaughton made 31 appearances across all competitions for TFC, arriving ahead of the 2022 season from the CPL’s Pacific FC. He has been a backup to Matt Hedges and Sigurd Rosted this season, but started the last two games in the absence of the injured Hedges.

MacNaughton spent three seasons with Pacific, where he made 59 combined appearances and won the CPL title in 2021.

His final game with Toronto wasn’t a happy one.

He conceded an own goal in the 4-2 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday but didn’t know much about it, with Rosted’s attempted clearance striking his body and bouncing into goal. MacNaughton was substituted at halftime with Bradley saying later that the defender was dealing with a lower leg issue.

McNaughton is a worldly addition to the Nashville roster.

Born in New York City to a Canadian father and Austrian mother, MacNaughton moved to Belgium when he was seven. After playing soccer at the University of Toronto where he studied architecture, his soccer career took off in the CPL.

The six-foot-one 185-pounder speaks English, French and German, understands Dutch and can “get by” in Spanish. He holds Canadian, American and Belgium citizenship.

“I can’t thank you enough for the incredible memories and experiences that I’ve had while playing for this city,” MacNaughton said in a social media farewell to Toronto. “To my teammates, you have become life-family to me and I’m grateful for every moment we’ve shared. To the fans, your unwavering support is truly special.

“Although my journey is taking me elsewhere, know that Toronto will always hold a special place in my heart. I am honoured to have been a part of this incredible community. Thank you again, Toronto. I’ll see you all soon.”

MacNaughton, who made his Canadian debut in November against Bahrain, joins former TFC winger Jacob Shaffelburg at Nashville.

Bradley says MacNaughton was a good fit with Nashville, which has had injuries on the backline and will likely be losing star centre back Walker Zimmerman to the U.S. during the Gold Cup.

“We appreciate the time that we had with Lukas,” he said.