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Toronto FC officials in Argentina; close to signing player

The Canadian Press

3/12/2013 1:04:18 PM

TORONTO -- Toronto FC is close to signing a player from South America.

President Kevin Payne says assistant coach Fran O'Leary and chief scout Pat Onstad are both currently in Argentina.

"We're pretty close to announcing a new signing. I hope it will happen in the next day or two," Payne told reporters after practice Tuesday. "And there's a couple of other players we're looking at as well that we think will really help us.

"This process will continue almost the whole season, but certainly in the first half of the season we're going to be spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to add talent to our team."

Onstad has already made several trips to Argentina to scout talent, with a striker believed to be on top of his shopping list.

With designated player Danny Koevermans still recovering from knee surgery, Toronto is thin up top although Welsh striker Robert Earnshaw, another new signing, has shown an eye for goal with two strikes in as many games.

Payne says the South American recruit -- 22-year-old Maximiliano Urruti of Newells Old Boys is reportedly a TFC target -- could be a designated player.

"Possibly. We're trying to figure out if there's a way for us to do him now and not necessarily make him a DP or possibly have the option to decide later in the year whether he's a DP.

"But he would be DP level. Whether he's actually a DP or not, we maybe have some flexibility there."

Only a portion of a designated player's pay counts against the team's salary. In 2013, for a designated player over the age of 23 that will be US$368,750.

Toronto FC currently has nine international slots on its roster and is using eight, so it has one available.

Manager Ryan Nelsen declined to identify what area he wants to strengthen.

"Obviously there's departments that I think we can get better at," said the former New Zealand international. "Any new addition we only want to make the team stronger."

Going into this season, Toronto faced a salary cap problem in that much of its balance sheet was tied up in the contracts of designated players Torsten Frings, Eric Hassli and Koevermans, and defenders Richard Eckersley and Darren O'Dea.

Toronto has eased some of that by trading Hassli to FC Dallas and the retirement of Frings.

Payne says the club is also looking at renegotiating one or two contracts.

"It's safe to say we'll end up with at least one contract renegotiated," he said. "But we've made some progress on the cap and we expect to make more."

The idea would be to have a player agree to a lesser amount this year, perhaps in exchange for a longer deal.

Payne also clarified the status of several players on loan.

English winger John Bostock is on a short-term contract with Toronto, with club options after that.

"So we'll talk with John. We'll see how we feel," Payne said. "But obviously based on the first game, based on everything we've seen, we certainly hope that John will be with us for the full season and hopefully beyond that."

Payne said the club would speak to Bostock prior to exercising any option to "make sure he's enjoying his football here."

Earnshaw has a six-month contract, with Toronto's option to extend for the balance of the calendar year, as well as two more one-year options.

Attacking midfielder Hogan Ephraim is slightly different in that he is on loan from Queens Park Rangers with the English club still owning his contract "so we don't entirely control that situation," Payne added.

"We intended to try to put ourselves, where we could, in situations when we're acquiring players (that) we have the opportunity to see them play in MLS before we make long-term commitments. That what we have with Hogan John, and Earnie."

Toronto (1-1-0) plays in Montreal (2-0-0) on Saturday.