After a disastrous end to their 2015 season Toronto FC have looked to the west to solve their woes. Yesterday, they announced the signing of Colorado Rapids defender Drew Moor and the confirmation of a trade for Vancouver Whitecaps fullback Steven Beitashour is expected any day now.
Finally, Toronto FC are in the process of finalizing a trade for midfielder Will Johnson of the MLS Cup winning Portland Timbers according to multiple reports. Anthony Totera of Red Card Radio reported this afternoon that a source tells him Will Johnson will be joining Toronto FC.
The same news is coming out of Chicago, where the Fire were also interested in acquiring the Canadian midfielder. Orrin Schwarz of the Chicago Daily Herald is reporting that its likely Toronto FC have beaten out the Chicago Fire.
The 28-year-old Johnson remains under contract with the Portland Timbers for one more year, but has made it clear to management that he is done with the club. This resulted from a falling out with the club, partially resulting from a lack of playing time after Johnson returned from a serious leg break suffered in 2014.
Toronto and Chicago likely emerged as the trade partners as a result of the Timbers allowing Johnson to have some say on where his new MLS home would be. The Vancouver Whitecaps were also interested, but indications are that the interest was not mutual as Johnson wanted to move east.
Johnson was born in Toronto but did not spend long in Canada before moving to England at a young age. A return to his hometown, however, would offer Johnson several opportunities, both on and off the field as a talented Canadian player.
Toronto have always been interested in acquiring Johnson, but squeezing him under the salary cap has been the main challenge. Reports are that Toronto is very close to the salary cap ceiling after signing Drew Moor to a deal that could be worth as much as $310,500, and reportedly picking up Steven Beitashour's salary of $197,166.67 in guaranteed compensation.
Johnson, as aforementioned, has one more year on a deal worth $334,333.33, certainly an expensive purchase to budget for Toronto FC. A player like Johnson certainly wouldn't be the club's top priority either, as they still need a number one goalkeeper after addressing their defensive issues earlier this month. A top quality keeper, whether MLS or from Europe, is certain to cost them another six figure salary, not to mention other potential transfer targets.
Toronto FC is likely to start the leaning process by using its buy out clause, with all reports indicating that veteran defender Ahmed Kantari is the likely target. However, even with his sizeable $345,000 off the books Toronto still need more space in order to make this move a reality.
With that in mind it is possible that a deal for Will Johnson would include a Toronto FC player going the other way, or that the club is looking to trade one of its current players elsewhere. The salary moved, however, would have to be sizeable.