After a brief stint at the KIA training ground, Toronto FC have return to the sunny south for the next leg of training camp. The team is now down in Bradenton, Florida for the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic where they will play games against the Oklahoma City Energy (Feb 18), HB Koge (Feb 21), the New York Red Bulls (Feb 25), and a final match to determine finishing positions on the 28th of February.
Before heading down to Florida the team made one roster move by parting ways with one of their draft picks. Tyler Engel, selected 81st overall in the 4th round, is no longer with the club. The forward from North Carolina did not show enough to earn a place in the first team and with the domestic requirements in place for the USL squad the number of spots available of Americans like Engel are going to be very limited.
While the team parted ways with Engel they did bring in a few additional faces for this leg of preseason. While the bulk of the roster in Florida is made up on under contract players along with the remaining draft picks there are a few other players in the mix.
Molham Babouli, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Luca Uccello, and Filippo DiBennardo are all with the team and looking to make the jump up the ranks for the academy. The quartet were all key contributors for the League 1 Ontario team last summer with Kaye also getting a good run of games with the Wilmington Hammerheads late in their season.
Of the four, Kaye and Babouli have drawn the most attention of the past year with both of them putting in impressive performances for the academy as well as in the college ranks. They are also a bit older than the others with Kaye being born in 1994 and Babouli in 1993. Both of them will be looking to crack the first team or at least be key contributors in USL to help continue their developments.
DiBennardo and Uccello are exciting prospects who also impressed in L1O last summer but this training camp may be more about experience for the pair of players born in 1997. For DiBennardo things will be even tougher with the ranks already being crowded in goal. He would be behind four other keepers and may even find minutes with TFCII hard to come by the season depending on what happens with Chris Konopka.
Uccello, on the other hand, could be a key player for the USL team this year. The midfielder was named to the L1O second team for his performances last year and though the USL roster could be quite crowded in the middle of the park this year he certainly has the quality to make a contribution to that squad.
Along with the quartet for the academy the team has also invited a trio of players who took part in the recent trials for the USL team. Raheem Edwards, Franco Lo Presti, and Kenny Doublette round out the group in Florida.
Edwards won the OCAA Freshman of the Year this past fall for his contributions to the Sheridan Bruins which included scoring 8 goals in just 7 games. He also helped the Bruins to claim yet another CCAA national title as well as playing for International in L1O at the start of the league season.
Lo Presti, a defender from Whitby, previously played for the University of Rhode Island where he made 51 appearances over the course of four seasons. He left URI following his senior year in 2011 and this past summer he was a steady presence for the Woodbridge Strikers in L1O.
The final member of the group, Doublette, was born in Haiti and just completed his senior year at Southern New Hampshire University where he was an offensive power notching 15 goals and 5 assists in 20 games this past fall. He played a big part in helping that team all the way to winning the NCAA Division II National Title. The story of how Doublette went from growing up in Haiti to being a national champion is certainly an inspiring one.
With the three trialists and four academy players there are certainly plenty of options for Greg Vanney and his coaching staff to look at over the next two weeks. It is possible that the team will bring in other players while down in Florida but that seems unlikely given the current status of CBA negotiations and what it might mean for the size of MLS rosters next season.