Raheem Edwards will not be the only Toronto FC academy product playing for one of their Canadian MLS rivals in 2018.
The Vancouver Whitecaps announced the signing of Doneil Henry on Friday. A 22-cap Canada international, the defender was released by West Ham after recovering from a horrific knee injury suffered while on loan at AC Horsens in Denmark last year.
Raised in Brampton, Henry came through the ranks with TFC and was the first academy graduate to sign with the first team. His performances as a young player earned him a move to Cypriot side Apollon Limassol, who loaned him back to Toronto before selling him on to West Ham in the Premier League.
Sam Allardyce signed Henry on the recommendation of former TFC coach Ryan Nelsen but he made only one appearance for the Hammers amid loans with Blackburn Rovers and Horsens.
Now 24, Henry’s physical gifts are obvious but he was blighted by poor decision-making and a tendency to make errors in Toronto.
“In my early days in MLS, I was very young and very rash,” he said after his move to the Whitecaps was announced.
“I've had a lot of time to mature into the game and into the position.”
A return to Toronto was never likely to be on the cards. TFC already have four centre-backs on the books - assuming Eriq Zavaleta agrees new terms - and are negotiating with a fifth in free agent Jason Hernandez.
Zavaleta, Drew Moor, Nick Hagglund and Chris Mavinga are all well-established in Greg Vanney’s rotation of central defenders and Hernandez cost only the league minimum in 2017.
Henry, who is coming off a Premier League salary, is likely to cost more than that but exactly how much the Whitecaps are paying him has not been announced.
Vancouver have a strong centre-back pairing in Kendall Waston and Tim Parker but lacked depth behind them last season. Andrew Jacobson, normally a midfielder, filled in on occasion and Aaron Maund was acquired during the year.
That could make Henry, who has upside but may need some time to get up to speed, a good fit.
With no games currently on the schedule for Canada’s men’s national team, Henry will have plenty of time to play his way into that picture. He has not made an appearance for his country since Octavio Zambrano took charge.