TORONTO – Just because it's an international break, doesn't mean it hasn't been a busy one.
While Toronto FC have been busy on the training pitch up at the BMO Training Ground, much has been going on off the field.
On Friday evening, greeted by a cacophony of chants from the TFC faithful, Spanish midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo arrived in Toronto ready to suit up for his new side.
“I'm very happy to be here, finally,” said Pozuelo after a long flight from Madrid. “Happy to see the support.”
Though it was his first time in town, Pozuelo reached out to a countryman to gain some insight on his new home.
“I spoke with Victor [Vazquez],” said Pozuelo. “[Heard] a lot of good things. I want to train on Monday with the team.”
He will spend the weekend undergoing medical tests and getting settled before taking part in his first session with the club next week.
As to what fans can expect from the new designated player, Pozuelo prefers to show rather than tell: “I'm a football player. I need to show on the pitch. I don't like to speak about my qualities. I try to help the team.”
Toronto will waste no time getting him involved in the action.
“I think he'll be involved in NYCFC [on Friday], all things going how hope between now and that match,” said Greg Vanney prior to Pozuelo's arrival. “We get him here for a week of training; it's not like we need to get him fit. He's a smart player, we don't play so different from the way he is used to. I'd like to hope he can play some role; that's what he's hoping. He's very eager to come and be a part of it.”
Smiled Pozuelo: “Yes, I'm ready.”
With the third DP added to the mix, Vanney hinted at further additions.
“We'd like to spend the TAM money we have: two players would be great, plus Pozuelo,” said the coach midweek. “Then we have one more spot open after that, of which we hope to fill within the next day or two. We're trying to make sure we're balanced, have cover in every position, that we have experience combined with youth.”
On Thursday, that promise came to fruition with the announcement that Richie Laryea, who had been training with the side since the start of preseason, had signed.
A speedy wide midfielder, the Toronto native was selected 7th overall by Orlando City SC in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.
TFC also announced another loan, sending Jon Bakero to Phoenix Rising FC of the USL Championship. He joins fellow first teamers Aidan Daniels, who went to Ottawa Fury FC along with TFC II's Shaan Hundal and Robert Boskovic, and Ryan Telfer at York9 FC out on loan for the season.
“With the guys we've sent out on loan, we believe they need to get minutes, be playing consistent games,” said Vanney. “Jon has a future in this league, he needs to play 25 games. Plus, if Jon goes to the US, he's months away from getting his Green Card, so when he comes back he'll be a domestic [on the roster].”
“We'll have finally turned one guy [from international roster spot to domestic], ironically into a Green Card holder and not a permanent resident,” continued Vanney, referencing the difficulty TFC has at transitioning players compared to the relative ease with which that process occurs south of the border.”
“It's my hometown,” joked Vanney. “They were really interested in Jon. Rick Schantz, who is the coach there – he and I actually grew up together, played together since we were 11 – Jon played for him when [with] the Tuscon PDL team in college.”
“When there was some consideration of putting Jon on loan, they reached out right away and said, 'We would love to have him; have good knowledge of him. Send us what you want – what position, how you want him to develop – we'll work with that,'” explained Vanney. “They were runners-up in the league, have a lot of players who have had MLS experience, which puts Jon in the mix with a veteran group. It seems like a good place.”
“They're a club that is ambitious to get into MLS, in terms of standards and facilities. It makes good sense for Jon,” concluded Vanney: “He'll be in a good environment.”