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Toronto FC looking for a new designated player who can generate goals


Toronto FC will be going after goals in searching for a third designated player.

The slot became open this week when TFC announced that while it was open to Argentine winger Pablo Piatti returning, it would not be as a DP.

"We need someone that can come in and help us score goals at a very high clip, that can create relationships with our players on the field and off the field, that can contribute in a lot of different ways, that has a great character and personality off the field," GM Ali Curtis told reporters Tuesday.

Toronto's other designated players are Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo and striker Jozy Altidore.

TFC tied for 12th in goal-scoring this season in the 26-team league, averaging 1.43 goals a game.

Young striker Ayo Akinola and Pozuelo each had nine goals while fullback/midfielder Richie Laryea and Piatti had four apiece. Altidore, limited to just 13 appearances through injury, had two goals.

"Obviously our real only consistent goal-scorer this year was Ayo and so that's an area we're looking to upgrade," team president Bill Manning said of his strike force.

The hunt will go on in conjunction with the search for a coach to follow Greg Vanney, who stepped down Tuesday.

Toronto (13-5-5) posted the second-best regular-season record in MLS in 2020 despite only playing four games at BMO field due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

There will be other changes.

"How much change? It's such a relative kind of term," said Curtis. "But there will be change. We have to bring in a new coach. We've got to find a way to get better we can win these trophies."

Pozuelo has been a hit right out of the box, a member of the league's Best XI in his two MLS seasons and a leading contender for MVP this year. Altidore can be a force to be reckoned with when healthy, but keeping him out on the pitch has been a problem.

Curtis said Altidore will be back next year, although his words did not come with a guarantee.

"Jozy's been a really big part of TFC over the years … Unfortunately he had a couple of injuries and wasn't able to be on the field as much as we'd like but we're looking to have Jozy back next year and we'll go from there.

"(If) for some reason we were to have a conversation and something were to change or things like that, then just like any player we would have that conversation. But for the most part right now I think the focus is on how we can find a player to fill that designated player slot and how can we find a coach to help lead our team on the field."

The team also has high hopes for 23-year-old rookie forward Ifunanyachi Achara, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season.

While Toronto has declined its option on Piatti, Manning said there were lots of positives with the 31-year-old Argentine and that Curtis has had "very good discussions" with his agent.

"So if we're in a situation where we can have a new designated player and Pablo on the team together, I think we're going to be better," he added.

Said Curtis: "Pablo was a great addition … We're just looking for something slightly different."

As for 21-year-old Scottish fullback Tony Gallacher, Curtis said the club's loan agreement with Liverpool did not come with an option to buy.

Curtis said the club continues talks with 33-year-old fullback Justin Morrow, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

"We'd like for Justin to come back but we also recognize that he's earned the right to be a free agent. He's a good soccer player … He's got a lot of juice in him as a soccer player."

Morrow also serves as executive director of Black Players for Change.

As for 35-year-old defender Laurent Ciman, Curtis said he plans a conversation with his agent but was unsure about his future.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press