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Toronto FC trades defender Eckersley to Red Bulls for draft pick

Toronto FC Richard Eckersley, right, goes down while battling Philadelphia Union Danny Cruz for the ball during the second half of a soccer game in Toronto Saturday September 15, 2012.

The Canadian Press

Toronto FC finally found a home for Richard Eckersley on Monday, sending the English fullback to the New York Red Bulls for a fourth-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

The move, long expected, was money-related. The MLS Players Union listed Eckersley's salary last season at US$310,000, second-highest among the numbers made public for Toronto players.

His number for 2014 was even higher, thanks to a contract renegotiation last year to help ease the 2013 salary cap burden.

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Toronto declined comment when asked if the club was absorbing any of that salary.

"As per team and league policy, we can't disclose terms of the deal," a Toronto spokesman said.

Which sounds like a yes.

Toronto was more interested in ridding itself of Eckersley's wages than getting something in return, which other clubs knew.

While a fourth-round draft choice is a modest prize — there are only four rounds in the SuperDraft — Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko can add it to the draft choices obtained for the rights to goalie Stefan Frei and midfielder Bobby Convey, two other players who did not figure in TFC's future.

Eckersley, 24, made 92 appearances for Toronto over three seasons after joining the club on loan from English side Burnley FC in April 2011. The loan became a permanent deal in January 2012.

Eckersley established himself as a starter at right fullback, filling in at centre back when needed. Signed to a rich contract by a previous regime, he found himself on the outs towards the end of last season because of his salary cap hit.

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The red-haired Brit was a fan favourite for his marauding runs and combative style.

But manager Ryan Nelsen used Mark Bloom for the last six games of the season, electing to keep Eckersley on the sidelines with his future on the club uncertain. The team recently signed veteran English fullback Bradley Orr on loan from Blackburn Rovers.

"We've been really honest with Richard," Nelsen said prior to flying to Florida for training camp Sunday.

"He's given great service to the club. He's done really well and it's not his fault that a contract was given that was probably not appropriate."

NOTES — The Vancouver Whitecaps filled a void at right back by acquiring Steven Beitashour from the San Jose Earthquakes for allocation money. Born in California to Iranian parents, Beitashour holds dual American-Iranian citizenship and has represented Iran. The Whitecaps also announced the signing of midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, acquired in Stage 2 of the 2013 MLS Re-Entry Draft ... Former Toronto FC midfielder Maurice Edu has joined the Philadelphia Union on a one-year loan from Stoke City of the English Premier League. Edu, who was MLS rookie of the year in 2007 with Toronto, returns to MLS in a bid to get more playing time in advance of the World Cup. The American joins the Union via the league's allocation process, which previously was not valuable as a way to sign designated players. The league has changed that rule for 2014, saying it reviews roster rules on an annual basis "and reserves the right to modify them prior to each season."

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