January 11, 2010
TFC eyes draft moves
By GARETH WHEELER, QMI AGENCY
What will he do this time?
Toronto FC director of soccer Mo Johnston is known as a mover and shaker in Major League Soccer circles, always good to make a deal.
And Thursday's MLS SuperDraft should be no different, despite TFC not having a first-round draft pick and having only two picks in the draft (Nos. 24 and 53).
"I've actually been very quiet so far," Johnston said.
The silence won't last long.
"I'm confident we'll be able to get some things done over the next six or seven days," he said. "This year it's all about getting the right guy and the priority is to move up in the draft."
Johnston's job is that much more difficult, not having any American roster spots available. And using an international roster spot on an American drafted college player doesn't make sense for the club.
Translation: Expect some player movement from Johnston.
Johnston also acknowledged he's in on-going talks with various clubs and players, and now that the MLS player combine is over, the real action begins.
What Johnston will be able to get done is unclear.
While he acknowledges this year's draft is about "certain positions", it's more about asset management. Moving up to take a player of interest for another team, then turning that player into another asset coming back to the club seems like the most logical move.
And from the sounds of it, this is what new head coach Preki Radosavljevic would prefer.
Preki seems less than impressed with the roster. He admits the team is a work in progress. But unlike his former club Chivas, TFC ownership has afforded Johnston ample resources to bring in players.
"Preki has got his eye on a couple of targets he wanted while at Chivas and wasn't able to bring in. We've talked about it and I think I can get something done," Johnston said.
This approach benefits Preki in putting together a team in his own mold while adding some much-needed MLS experience to the roster.
If Johnston elects to move up in the draft and to keep the pick, it could also signal his interest in Teal Bunbury -- this year's Mac Hermann Trophy winner as the NCAA'S top player.
Bunbury's name resonates with Canadian soccer fans, as the son of former Canadian International Alex. Bunbury proved his worth as a dynamic goal-scorer this past season, leading his Akron Zips to an undefeated regular season and then taking them all the way to the national final. His Canadian designation doesn't hurt either.
"He's a good, young player.He's 6-foot-2, strong, fairly quick and I played with his father." Johnston said.
If Johnston can bring in Bunbury, TFC would have two of the past three Mac Hermann Trophy winners on their roster. Forward O'Brien White was the 2007 recipient. The Canadian connections to both White and Bunbury could make for an intriguing striker combination for years to come.
Last year, Johnston landed all three of his major targets. Instead of trading away any of his three first-round picks, Johnson did the unusual for him, staying status quo, selecting midfielder Sam Cronin (second), White (fourth) and goalkeeper Stefan Frei (13th), all of whom had varying levels of success in their respective rookie campaigns.
In fact, TFC has considerable young talent. Defender Nana Attakora (20), and to a lesser extent young Gambian duo of Amadou Sanyang (18) and Emmanuel Gomez (19), are reason to believe better days lie ahead for the Reds.
The pressure is on for Johnston to get it right this off-season right. While Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. is resolutely standing by its man, the public knives have been out for Johnston for quite some time, after three subpar years under his watchful eye.
"The entire process is a game and in the end it all funnels through. We've got a game-plan. "