The 2015 USL season kicks off on Saturday evening which means that time is running out for teams to finish putting their rosters together before their opening match. Toronto FC II were busy this week rounding out their squad ahead of a trip to play the Charleston Battery this weekend. The club officially announced four signings, seven loans from the first team, two call-ups from the academy, and their first captain on Friday morning meaning that they are now all set for their first season.
Toronto FC have decided to loan seven players to the USL squad for the opening weekend. The number is larger than it is expected to be most of the season since the first team is on a bye week for this round of MLS play. That meant that goalkeepers Quillan Roberts and Alex Bono, defender Ashtone Morgan, midfielders Chris Mannella, Manuel Aparicio and Jay Chapman, and forward Jordan Hamilton were all made available. With the exception of one of the two goalkeepers that entire group is expected to be in the starting lineup against the Battery as they look to gain match fitness for the first team.
The loan players are by no means stuck on TFCII now that they have been sent down. It is likely that some of them will wind up spending most of the season in USL but for the likes of Chapman and Morgan this will almost certainly be a quick pitstop. With Justin Morrow's suspension and Michael Bradley liked to be busy with the USMNT both of them could be in line for MLS minutes next week which should mean this is just a loan to get them minutes in one game and keep them match fit before calling them back up to the first team for the Real Salt Lake trip.
On top of announcing the loans the team confirmed that Chris Mannella would be the captain for their first season. It is a pretty good indicator that the home grown midfielder will be spending the vast majority of the season with the USL side. It is not a surprise that he has been named the captain though, as he has held that honour for a number of different TFC academy squads over recent years and seems to be a real natural leader in the middle of the park.
Along with the loans the team signed four more players to USL contracts bringing the total number of players signed directly to that team to 10. The team added defender Daniel Fabrizi, and midfielders Massimo Mirabelli, Adam Bouchard, and Mark Sarjeant.
Fabrizi is a 23-year-old defender who was a key part of York University's success in recent years. The 6-3 defender was a rock in the back during the Lions undefeated run to the CIS Championship last fall but his biggest strength may be his skills on the ball. Fabrizi proved on a regular basis the could play the ball out of the back and had the poise to find a good pass rather than just playing the ball long when put under pressure.
The addition of Massimo Mirabelli is one of the more interesting signings by the club as the former FC Edmonton midfielder is a 23-year-old who showed a lot of potential for the NASL side before falling out of the game day 18 and eventually being released. He also represented Canada at the Under-20 level including 2 appearances in the 2011 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships. He has shown plenty of potential and already gained a fair bit of experience over the years so TFCII will hoping he can finally put it all together on a regular basis and be a dynamic part of their midfield.
Adam Bouchard is another talent that joined Toronto FC's academy recently. The 19-year-old midfielder was previously playing in the youth ranks down in Uruguay and was invited to one Canadian Under-17 camp in 2013. He was on TFC's radar prior to going down to Uruguay to play having tried out for the academy. Since returning to Canada he has risen through the academy ranks quickly but is still a bit of a surprise inclusion on the USL roster.
The final signing for the team was Mark Sarjeant who comes to the team from Grand Canyon University. The 19-year-old midfielder is a complete unknown at this point in time and should be look at to fill a depth role for the team in the middle of the park.
With the USL allowing for teams to use up to five academy players without signing them to professional contracts that was always a mechanism that a team like TFCII could use to round out the rest of their roster. Such players could join the first team without signing a deal that would cost them future college eligibility. That is how TFCII were able to call-up a pair of players from the academy to the team with Marcus Godinho and Nikola Stakic coming up from the senior academy team to provide some needed defensive depth.
The end result of all these moves is a roster that stands at 19 players for the first weekend of the USL season.