Over the last two seasons, Toronto FC’s first team goalkeepers have often been the subject of scrutiny following strings of inconsistent performances in net.
Since the start of the 2021 MLS campaign, the Reds have conceded 128 goals in 67 games, which averages out to 1.91 goals conceded per match. In addition, TFC’s goalkeepers have only kept a total of five clean sheets in those 67 league games.
Serving as the club’s first and second choice goalkeepers since the start of the 2019 MLS season, Alex Bono and Quentin Westberg’s time at Toronto FC could be coming to an end in the coming months.
As per the MLSPA, Bono is eligible for free agency ahead of the 2022-23 offseason, while Westberg confirmed to the media on September 29th that he is not under contract next season. Both keepers are two of the longest serving players in the current TFC first team squad, and with their futures up in the air, all signs may well be pointing to some offseason changes on the goalkeeping front.
Bono began the 2022 season as Bob Bradley’s first choice in net and has since made 24 league appearances as of October 6th, keeping three clean sheets.
After shipping four goals against CF Montreal on September 4th, Bono lost his place in the XI for TFC’s following fixture against Atlanta United, and has not played since. So, could fans have seen the last of Bono in a Toronto FC shirt?
The MLS Cup-winning goalkeeper has previously spoken about his TFC future, with the Syracuse-native expressing his desire to remain at the club and in Toronto.
“I would love to stay. I love Toronto,” said Bono in July when asked about whether talks had begun over a potential new deal.
There is no doubt that Bill Manning and the Toronto FC front office will have their sights set on re-establishing themselves as a powerhouse in MLS. Moreover, it remains to be seen whether Bono will indeed be a part of that project or not.
Drafted sixth overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Bono has made over 150 appearances for TFC and is the only goalkeeper in club history to pass the century mark in games played. Through multiple highs and lows during his seven-year tenure in Toronto, Bono has played a role in some of TFC’s most memorable moments in recent history, including the MLS Cup Final in 2017, and the Reds’ run to the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League Final.
At 28 years of age, Bono still has some of his best playing years ahead of him. Whether his future lies in Toronto or not remains to be seen.
As for Westberg, the French-born American may have played his last game at BMO Field in the Reds’ 1-0 defeat to Inter Miami on September 30th. On the eve of the match, he spoke on how much of a pleasure it has been to play at home.
“Honestly, from the first game that I’ve ever played [at BMO], I always treated it like it’s my last,” said Westberg.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m a broken record, but I’ve never taken one single home game for granted, even when it was the pandemic and it was empty.”
Westberg turned 36 in April, but the veteran has already expressed his desire to continue playing beyond 2022. Since arriving from French side AJ Auxerre in February 2019, Westberg has made 78 appearances in all competitions as of October 6th.
Having started TFC’s last three league matches, Westberg could be in line to keep his place in net for the Reds’ final game of the 2022 season against the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park. If it is indeed his last outing for TFC, there is no doubt that he will be remembered as a true professional on and off the pitch, as well as a player who always wore the badge with pride.
Now, looking ahead to the offseason, if Bono and Westberg leave the club as free agents, Greg Ranjitsingh will be the Reds’ only returning first team goalkeeper in 2023.
The Scarborough-born Trinidadian has not played a single minute for Toronto FC since signing a deal through 2023 (with an option for 2024) in January 2022. Therefore, it is unlikely that Ranjitsingh moves up the goalkeeping pecking order next season, especially given the likelihood of one or more new signings during the offseason.
With at least one, high-calibre goalkeeper expected to join Toronto FC ahead of the 2023 campaign, the Reds may also look to offer first team contracts to a couple of Toronto FC II shot stoppers, most notably Luka Gavran.
The 22-year-old from Hamilton was selected 31st overall in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft before signing his TFC II contract in March 2022. In his debut campaign with the Young Reds, Gavran made 20 appearances as he helped guide his side to the MLS NEXT Pro Eastern Conference Final.
TFC II is also set to welcome Andreas Vaikla back to the club following his season-long loan at FC Edmonton in the Canadian Premier League. The 25-year-old has featured 21 times for the Eddies in all competitions as of October 6th.
In terms of potential new signings, several notable names in MLS are eligible for free agency, including D.C. United’s Bill Hamid, and New York City FC’s Sean Johnson. Despite having one remaining Designated Player slot, it would be quite the surprise if Toronto FC signs a goalkeeper to a DP contract, even if the rumours of a possible fourth slot are true.
All in all, the club’s goalkeeping situation heading into 2023 will spark quite the discussion amongst the TFC faithful over the course of the 2022-23 offseason.