Toronto FC are soaking up the sun in California as Bob Bradley’s first training camp in charge of the club is well underway and the wheels are turning as the new gaffer and Bill Manning work on overturning a roster that’s coming off a second-last place finish in Major League Soccer.
Last week, the team unveiled their current training camp roster — headlined by Sebastian Giovinco, who is training with the club — and on Monday, Toronto officially announced the signing of designated player Carlos Salcedo. On Tuesday, the Mexican international was unveiled to media.
We’ll get into that below, but first, I wanted to mention that there’s a lot of unknowns and moving parts when it comes to TFC right now. Typically, reporters would be allowed at the BMO Training Grounds in training camp, where we’d get decent glimpse at who’s at camp, and to a lesser extent, how they’re faring. In addition, we’d get the chance to talk to the head coach on a daily basis—ask questions on a daily basis—however that hasn’t been the case the past two years due to current circumstances. There’s only been two media availabilities in 2022 with Bradley, and he isn’t one to share much himself, but I’ll do my best here to try and give everyone some honest insight into what’s going on.
Carlos Salcedo is introduced as a Toronto FC player
Carlos Salcedo meets the media for the first time as a member of Toronto FC pic.twitter.com/rym1XxCdzD— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) February 1, 2022
Salcedo fielded questions from the media on Tuesday, in both English and Spanish. I have to say, his English is pretty good, but that makes sense when you consider how well-travelled he is, including a stint with President Bill Manning and Real Salt Lake from 2011 to 2015.
The 28-year-old defender trained with the club for the very first time on Tuesday, and Bradley, who knew Salcedo ‘very well’ prior to him joining the club—citing the former Tigres’ centre-back’s strong play against LAFC in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League Final—liked what he saw from the Reds’ newest DP. In particular, he liked the overall presence Salcedo brought to the group, despite the Mexican being the ‘new kid on the block’ per se.
“You see right away his presence on the field,” said Bradley. “I think so far he’s just done a great job of coming into the group, getting to know guys, being down to Earth — being real...”
Bradley also touched on Salcedo’s versatility, noting that he has the ability to play as the left centreback, the right centreback, and in a back three. One thing Bradley wasn’t willing to touch on at this time, however, was the question many TFC fans are wondering: Can Salcedo be bought down from his DP status?
“I’d rather not get into that,” said Bradley. “Let’s just leave it as that right now. He comes as a DP and then as we move forward, we’ll see what the options are.”
As it stands, the team is comfortable with Salcedo as a DP, more so because they see it as an upgrade from their last DP: Yeferson Soteldo. I asked Bradley about Soteldo, and why the club decided to move on from the Venezuelan, and here was his response:
“I’m not going to get into details with everything that went on last year. Often times, young players you see the talent, but it’s not always that all the other parts that are necessary to be an important part of the team are there,” said Bradley.
You all can read between the lines there.
Salcedo is a significant upgrade for the Reds at the back. A pairing of Chris Mavinga and the Mexican International, supplemented by Shane O’Neill and Lukas Macnaughton looks a whole lot better than Omar Gonzalez, Mavinga, Eriq Zavaleta, and Luke Singh.
And, what I can tell you, is that the club is not done adding at the back...
Bob Bradley on Sebastian Giovinco
Speaking of further additions, we finally got to hear the new gaffer’s thoughts on Toronto FC legend Sebastian Giovinco, who is still training with the club without a contract.
Here’s what Bradley had to say:
“Seba’s come in with a really good mentality. Obviously, he hadn’t played last May, so he keeps himself fit, but there’s a big difference between the kind of fitness work he was doing to look good and still be able to train right away, but that’s difference than the kind of sharpness and overall fitness you see from him when he’s at his best. I love the way he’s gone about training sessions; you can still see in certain moments some of the qualities that have always made him special, and we’re still trying to figure out the best situation. We talk often times as players move on in careers, what are they looking for? And I talked a little bit about this with Seba the other day, but I think he loves Toronto, I think he loves the idea of what’s going on still with this club and this team, and so we’ll see if there’s something that fits for both sides.”
According to Manning, Giovinco, 35, joins camp in hopes of finishing his career off for Toronto FC. It’s not about money for the Italian Stallion, which ultimately clears a major hurdle for the club who hope to be competitive in 2022.
As I mentioned on Waking The Red Weekly on Tuesday, there’s a growing optimism within Toronto FC that Giovinco will eventually put pen to paper and ink a deal with the Reds that will see him on the club’s roster come opening day (Feb. 26). He played 30 minutes against the LA Galaxy in preseason action, but that official contract hasn’t happened yet. That being said, every indication is that he’s training with TFC to be ready for the start of the season.
One final hurdle the club will have to overcome is the Allocation Order. Giovinco has to go through that process in order to rejoin the league, though TFC are in a fairly decent position right now that it won’t cost them too much to move up to the No. 1 spot. The Reds maintain the No. 2 spot in the Order, one behind FC Cincinnati. Typically, that top spot has cost around $350,000 in allocation money, but considering the Reds are in the second spot, it likely would only cost a fraction of that amount to move up. Alternatively, TFC can wait it out and see if another team trades for the No. 1 spot to acquire another player, leaving the Reds at the top.
The prospect of Giovinco and fellow Italian Lorenzo Insigne linking up at BMO Field on a summer Saturday night ... I mean, come on. These are the things dreams are made of.
Bradley liking Deandre Kerr and other TFC youngsters
New Toronto FC signing Deandre Kerr certainly made a splash in his preseason debut for the club, netting two goals in a 5-4 loss to the LA Galaxy. According to a source, Kerr has really impressed in training camp and may just be one to watch out for in 2022 season.
Bradley, who has voiced his excitement for the crop of Toronto FC youngsters, offered some insight into what he’s seen from the 19-year-old Ajax, Ontario native early on:
“Deandre comes in, he’s a little bit shy and quiet, but now we show him certain ideas on the training field, we connect the dots with certain video, and now to see in the first game against the Galaxy, him apply some of those things. He was able to get from outside-in, something I talk about a lot: wide attackers that don’t just play out on the touch line, but get outside-in. When you show some of these guys video of players like Mohamed Salah who have those qualities, and to see a little of that come out in Deandre, man that felt great. If we can continue to build on that, then the upside is great, so really excited with him.”
Funny enough, Kerr netted two of the goals against the Galaxy, and the other two were scored by fellow youngsters Jayden Nelson and Jordan Perruzza. With the way the roster is currently constructed heading into the match against FC Dallas at the end of February, the young guys will have a chance to impress Bradley in some game action—and it won’t be in the unfortunate environment that was evident last season.
“Jayden Nelson, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty (and Noble Okello), these guys are really fun guys to work with—great personalities. They want to get better.”
It’ll be a big season for the TFC youngsters, many of whom need minutes as they eye potential moves overseas.
- One last tidbit worth mentioning is that Bob Bradley did state that the club will not be finished making moves before the start of the regular season. The primary MLS transfer window will likely run until April/early May, so TFC still have ample time to make moves after the start of the regular season. Furthermore, the secondary transfer window also opens in July, and I can confirm that the Reds will be adding at least one more piece during the summer. Stay tuned.
- I lied. One more note: I’ve seen a lot of people asking me about Andrea Belotti. This remains the latest that I’ve heard.
I'll also add: given what is going on at Toronto FC and the direction the club is heading, a deal with Andrea Belotti was never close and is not on the table. It's more likely that his agent is using TFC rumours to get money from a European team, per sources.— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) January 13, 2022