First FC player gets some pub

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Perhaps it was appropriate Toronto FC would roll out the signing of its first player at a downtown pub, Foggy Dew on King St., rather than at those plush, corporate offices that the team's owners, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., like to call home.

Not that anyone knows him well yet, but from a distance it seemed like a real comfortable setting for Toronto FC coach Mo Johnston, the Scot who was hired in August to direct the team. "He's 29, not 21. He's a professional, or else he would be hanging out in bars," Johnston said, laughing, talking about the player in question.

That player, Jim Brennan, introduced to a packed throng at the pub yesterday, seemed a little nervous with all the media types, let alone the pub revellers walking back and forth to the washroom wondering what the fuss was about. Brennan, a midfielder, Newmarket native and mainstay on the national team (playing in 43 international matches), has spent the past 10 years playing in Europe, most recently for Southampton of the Football Championship.

Toronto's Major League Soccer club has a lot of work to do to fill its roster -- 18 players on the senior roster, 10 on the developmental squad -- by the time Johnston wants to get things rolling at the training camp, later in January. The season starts in the spring of 2007.

Manager of team services Earl Cochrane said January will be a bit harried, since signed international players won't get their releases until then, although that won't stop the club from going after players not under contract. Cochrane said the team would like eight to 11 Canadians on that senior roster when the dust settles.

So Brennan needs to get the pompons out, promoting the club to his peers, especially those in Europe's professional ranks. He said yesterday he'll play up the fact the MLS is, "a good league, plus there's the (North American) lifestyle."

Johnston said Brennan brings the right passport, plus versatility as a player.

"We won't be pursuing any players in MLS right now (to fill out the roster)," Johnston said.

The MLS expansion draft will be in November. Toronto FC, like other MLS clubs, is looking at a salary cap of $1.9 million US to sign players, although Cochrane said the Toronto club, as an expansion team, is negotiating for some flexibility. Brennan signed a multi-year deal. The team wasn't releasing other contract details.


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