TFC closing in on Casey

Conor Casey is close to becoming a member of the Toronto FC. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

Conor Casey is close to becoming a member of the Toronto FC. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

DEAN MCNULTY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

Toronto FC is on the verge of agreeing to terms with Major League Soccer over the signing of star striker Conor Casey, Sun Media has been told.

An end to the month-long soap opera between the team and MLS is expected to be announced as soon as today, a source close to those negotiations told Sun Media yesterday.

Toronto coach Mo Johnston, however, refused to confirm yesterday that a deal has been done to keep the United States international player in the FC fold.

"I have no comment on that," Johnston said when asked if he was ready to officially unveil Casey as a Toronto team member.

The fly in the ointment apparently has been the reluctance of Johnston to use the team's No. 1 allocation position to claim Casey.

"It was never the league that was holding up this deal," a source said. "Toronto could have used its No. 1 allocation slot at any time to claim Casey."

As an expansion team, Toronto has first right of refusal to any new players coming to MLS.

Toronto also has the No. 6 pick it received from New York Red Bulls in the deal that brought Abbe Ibrahim here. Johnston would rather use that allocation to sign Casey, keeping the No. 1 slot open should an even more high profile player become available before the start of the season.

The danger is that four other clubs -- Columbus, Kansas City, DC and Los Angeles, who hold the No. 2 through No. 5 slots -- could claim Casey if Toronto doesn't exercise its No. 1 pick.

"There are other clubs who would love to get their hands of Conor," Johnston said. "He is a good young player who has shown since joining us in pre-season training that he has a load of potential."

Another solution would be for Johnston to buy or trade to get those other four team's allocations, but he has pretty much ruled that out, saying it would be too expensive.

Casey, who was a key member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic soccer team, has played most of the past two years in the German Bundesliga with FSV Mainz.

A torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered while playing for the U.S. national side has limited his play at the start of this season, making him expendable to the German club.

But Johnston said that at just 25 years old, Casey has plenty of upside.

"He has shown no ill-effects from his injury and he could prove to be a key part of our club," he said.

RIGHT TO PLAY

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. announced yesterday that Toronto FC has joined with Olympic great Johann Olaf Koss to support Right to Play, an international organization pledged to helping children of the world's poorest nations to have the opportunity to play sports.


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