Toronto FC eyes 'keeper

DEAN MCNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:25 PM ET

The rights to Canadian international goalkeeper Greg Sutton have been purchased by Major League Soccer and his next home could be Toronto FC.

But Toronto coach Mo Johnston refused to comment on reports yesterday the 29-year-old Sutton likely will end up in FC colours when the team begins its inaugural season in 2007.

"I have seen the report out of Montreal that Greg is going to join the MLS," Johnston said.

"But I can not comment any further than that."

Sutton has played the past four seasons in the United Soccer League First Division with the Montreal Impact.

In that time, the Hamilton native was named all four seasons as the league's most valuable 'keeper.

Sutton, at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, is a physical player who has notched three international shutouts playing for the Canadian men's team.

Although Sutton was under contract through 2008 with the Impact, the team will not stand in the way of his move to the MLS.

"It's always hard to see a player like Greg go, but on the other hand, it's part of the reality of soccer," Impact president Joey Saputo said in a statement yesterday.

While not talking specifically about Sutton, Johnston said he intends to build Toronto FC with as many Canadians as he can sign.

"Well, first and foremost it's a Canadian team," he said.

"It would be an outcry if we didn't sign any Canadians. The nucleus of our club should be Canadians."

There are a number of huge roadblocks to making Johnston's wishes come true, however, and he knows all about them.

Canadian players such as Tomas Radzinski, Paul Stalteri, Atiba Hutchinson and Ian Hume all play key roles for professional teams in Europe and are unlikely to come back home to a huge pay cut.

"I am trying to secure as many (Canadians) as I can," Johnston said. "Is it possible to sign big names from Europe? Probably not because of how much they cost."

Johnston, however, said he has been astounded at the positive reaction the new side has received in Toronto since it was announced it would be building a 20,000-seat stadium on the groundsof Exhibition Place. The construction is ahead of schedule and everything is in place to start the season at the BMO Stadium.

"We have already sold 5,100 season tickets in just a few short weeks," Johnston said.

"I am very pleased."


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