TFC adds defender

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:11 PM ET

TORONTO - Toronto FC has added another piece to its constantly evolving roster.

Defender Richard Eckersley has been brought in on loan from Burnley of England.

The 22-year-old was good enough to spend considerable time with the under-17 and under-18 sides of powerhouse Manchester United but made only two appearances with the main club.

He has moved around since then, going from Burnley, to loan agreements with Plymouth Argyle, Bradford and City and Bury, before rejoining his former Plymouth coach Paul Mariner in Toronto.

Mariner is TFC’s director of player development.

“Paul knows Richard very well and I am convinced he can fit into our system,” TFC head coach Aron Winter said in a release.

“He plays just the way Aron and Bob want to play building up from the back. He’s very quick, has two good feet can play left back and right back but his best position is right back,” Mariner said.

“He will be a good addition for us.”

The sturdy 6-foot Eckersley was expected to arrive in Toronto on Friday but it will likely take some time until he is fit and comfortable enough to step into the lineup.

His new teammates will clash with D.C. United on Saturday at BMO Field.

D.C. was the worst team in Major League Soccer last season, but upset the Reds 1-0 at BMO late last season, causing the frustrated fans on hand to boo the team off of the pitch. The Reds got revenge in the final game of the season, winning 3-2 in Washington.

Since then, United has lost its longtime star Jaime Moreno to retirement, but added Charlie Davies, who leads MLS with four goals.

Davies has been coming off the bench as he recovers from an injury that hobbled him for over a year, but might be ready to start, despite some new aches and pains.

Toronto’s defence has allowed only a single goal in its past two games, but that’s as much a result of help from Stefan Frei’s crossbar and goalposts than a backline that has found its form.

This remains very much a work in progress that will take time.

The return of Julian de Guzman in the midfield has been a big help and Adrian Cann has been a standout in the middle of the backline, but other defenders have had their share of shaky moments.

As a result, Winter has constantly tinkered, sending Nana Attakora, Dan Gargan and Mikael Yourassowsky in and out of the lineup. Ty Harden has spent a lot of time at right back and Attakora was unsuccessfully shifted there before moving back to his preferred spot.

While Toronto’s recent run of draws is better than a string of losses, the club must take three points out of this matchup, something Cann made very clear in the aftermath of Wednesday’s 0-0 tie with David Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy.

Both these clubs put particular emphasis on developing homegrown players.

D.C. recently became the first MLS team to have three homegrown players on the field at the same time, while TFC has a number of graduates from its academy on its roster, including Oscar Cordon, who made his league debut against the Galaxy.

Captain Maicon Santos is expected to return to the lineup after sitting out on Wednesday with the flu.

Striker Alan Gordon’s status (groin) is less clear.

“It’s possible he can play, but I have to think about it ... next week we have another game and you have to be careful with (injured) players,” Winter said.


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