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Toronto FC still aiming for marquee designated player

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The Canadian Press
8/2/2013 4:21:56 PM
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TORONTO -- Having just added a Spanish winger and Swiss fullback, Toronto FC still has its eyes set on landing a marquee designated player in addition to young Argentine forward Maximiliano Urutti.

"We're working pretty much 24 hours a day on some fairly sizable signings," team president Kevin Payne told reporters after practice Friday at the MLS club's north Toronto training centre.

"We're coming up to the end of the transfer period, these things are all complicated but I do hope we'll have some news before the transfer period ends."

The transfer window closes Aug. 8 but after that MLS teams have until Sept. 15 to sign players out of contract.

Toronto (3-10-8) has signed 22 new players since the end of last season, with 25 going out the door. Only seven players on the current roster were with the team last year.

The latest newcomers are 24-year-old Spanish winger Alvaro Rey, who saw 16 minutes action off the bench in last Saturday's 2-1 win over Columbus, and 25-year-old Swiss fullback Jonas Elmer, who arrived Thursday.

Toronto has been after Urutti for months, with chief scout Pat Onstad playing Captain Ahab in search of the Argentine Moby Dick.

"We've chased him a long time," said Payne. "We've watched him many, many, many times. Pat Onstad has seen him live on a number of occasions.

"Our opinion of him has never wavered. We think he'll be an outstanding player in our league. So we pursue that diligently."

Urutti has severed his ties to Argentine club Newell's Old Boys, which may ease his passage north.

"We really think that Urutti's a player that will be one of the absolute top forwards in (MLS)," Payne said. "We think he will bang in goals."

Goals have been an issue for Toronto whose top two strikers -- designated player Danny Koevermans and Robert Earnshaw - have been battling injuries.

Only D.C. United with 10, has scored fewer goals than Toronto (19).

Payne declined to identify the designated player in question or respond to reports of the club's interest in Uruguayan World Cup star forward Diego Forlan.

Toronto already has two designated players in Koevermans and Argentine midfielder Matias Laba. That leaves them with one slot open.

Payne said the idea is to sign a DP and then use a new league designation to acquire and employ Urutti.

Toronto currently has two international spots available.

Elmer trained separately Friday, looking to find his legs after a long flight from Europe. Coach Ryan Nelsen said it will be up to the Swiss to force his way in the lineup.

Ashtone Morgan has been the incumbent of late, at least since captain Darren O'Dea left for a club in Ukraine.

O'Dea's departure left the club short of options at fullback. Richard Eckersley is the starter at right fullback with Ryan Richter and Darel Russell also available.

Payne also said there have been some preliminary discussions with the Wellington Phoenix, a New Zealand member of Australia's A-League, about keeping Jeremy Brockie. The Kiwi striker is on loan to Toronto through the end of August.

"Anything longer-term with Brockie would likely happen next year," Payne said. "They want him back for their season. But I think there's a possibility that something could happen after that. We've got a good relationship with the club. I think Brockie's really enjoyed himself here."

The Toronto GM says the club will start next season with salary cap space and a lot of roster flexibility with only a few guaranteed contracts carrying over.

Koevermans' US$1.66-million contract expires at the end of the season. When healthy, the Dutch big man has been productive and Payne said the team plans to sit down and talk to him about his future.

"I think we'd like to get him back on the field first before we've have that conversation," Payne said.

The 34-year-old Koevermans' return from knee surgery has been slowed by a series of minor injuries, most recently a calf problem.

Toronto plays at New England (8-7-6) on Sunday.

NOTES -- Earnshaw (hamstring) did some light training Friday. Coach Ryan Nelsen said his role Sunday would depend on how he reacts Saturday to training. Koevermans (calf) is still not ready.

Toronto FC Celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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