FC courts NCAA star

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:13 PM ET

Manager Mo Johnston is holding out hope he can convince NCAA star Joseph Lapira to sign with Toronto FC, which picked him in the fourth round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

Lapira is in Scotland with Aberdeen FC on a tryout and has been invited to play for the Irish national men's side for which he's eligible because his mother was born there.

In fact, he became the first amateur in more than 40 years to suit up for Ireland in a game this past May against Ecuador.

The 21-year-old native of Lake Charles, La., graduates this year from the University of Notre Dame where he won the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy in 2006 as the best collegiate player in the U.S.

What makes Lapira so attractive is that he is a natural striker who scored 22 goals in one season at South Bend.

"I talked to (Lapira) on the day of the draft," Johnston said yesterday. "And I talked to his agent. We don't think it's a done deal that he'll stay in Europe."

There have been rumours that Lapira has been experiencing bouts of homesickness during the nine months he has been overseas.

"I'm excited about trying to lure Lapira here," Johnston said. "We used a late-round draft pick but I think it is important that we try to get a kid like Lapira to play."

On the downside, Johnston said he is at an impasse in negotiations to get Canadian goalkeeper Josh Wagenaar, who has been released by his Dutch club, ADO Den Haag.

Wagenaar, 22, of Grimsby, joined ADO in July 2006 but has played in just five games mostly because of injuries.

"We put an offer to him through the league," Johnston said. "The offer was rejected. The offer still stands. We are not upping the offer. It's up to Josh if he wants to come home to accept the offer.

"He was looking for certain guarantees that we weren't prepared to give him."

The situation in net for TFC has changed since 2007 when the team lost starter Greg Sutton to a concussion and couldn't find a suitable replacement.

Johnston used his third pick at the draft to get Brian Edwards, a 'keeper on the NCAA champion Wake Forest University team.

"With Greg back and by drafting Edwards our goalkeeping needs are not the same as they were at the end of last season," he said.

Meanwhile, Johnston got a look yesterday at this year's crop of amateur tryouts.

"We have less (in volume), but last year with 1,000 here it was far too much," he said. "This year is much better and it shows."

There was even a group of 12 players who came from France for the tryouts.


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