Transfer rumors suggest Toronto FC still looking to improve defense
By Paul Taylor
The general consensus is that Toronto FC have the quality in midfield and attack, to return to the playoffs in 2023 after a two-year absence. Certainly, with talent such as Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi and Jonathan Osorio, this is a more than fair assessment.
However, the areas which could hold TFC back are the defence and goalkeeping positions. Certainly, after two consecutive seasons of allowing a franchise-worst 66 regular season goals, a lot of work needs to be done to improve the back line.
Part of the Reds' focus involved parting company with several players, including goalies Alex Bono and Quentin Westberg. Both had their moments in Southern Ontario, especially Bono, who was part of the starting lineup which won an historic treble in 2017.
As Toronto FC look for ways to strengthen their back line, they have reportedly been linked with goalkeeper Rodrigo Rey, full back Bryan Reynolds and re-signing centre-back Chris Mavinga.
As things stand, TFC's goalkeeping roster consists of Greg Ranjitsingh and Tomas Romero. Clearly, they need more help between the posts.
In this respect, one possible option is Rodrigo Rey. As per the Toronto Sun's Steve Buffery, the MLS Network recently reported TFC have inquired about the Argentinian goalkeeper.
Rey currently plays for Argentine Primera Division club Gimnasia. However, his contract is due to expire at the end of the year.
As such, whether TFC is successful in signing the 31-year-old should be known in the near future. Their main competition is expected to come from Club Atletico Independiente, who are considered part of Argentina's 'Big Five' football clubs.
Step back in time for centre-back help
Turning to the defence, the Reds received a significant boost with the recent addition of Matt Hedges. The FC Dallas legend has been a consistent success in the centre of defence for the past decade, with a resume which includes being named MLS Defender of the Year in 2016.
Putting Hedges alongside the likes of Richie Laryea and Shane O'Neill is a positive step for TFC. However, more help is still required.
Interestingly, Toronto FC are reportedly looking to their very recent past to strengthen the defence. As per Buffery, the club is in negotiations to bring Chris Mavinga back.
This may surprise some, given that the Reds did not exercise the 2023 club option on Mavinga's contract. The reality is he did not perform well last year.
In fairness to the 31-year-old though, his form was impacted by off-the-field issues and injuries. On his day he is still one of the better centre-backs in MLS and he is more than capable of returning to his previous level of excellence.
A young former MLS talent
According to Anthony Khoury of Waking the Red, another intriguing possibility is Bryan Reynolds. If he sounds familiar, it's because he previously played for FC Dallas.
Reynolds is currently on the books of Serie A club AS Roma. However, things have not gone as planned for him, leading to two loan spells with Belgium sides Kortrijk and Westerlo respectively.
The 21-year-old certainly has the talent and potential to succeed. Aside from TFC and his former club FC Dallas, fellow MLS sides New York City FC, Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake are also speculated to be interested.
One factor which might go against a union between Reynolds and the Reds, is his main position of right back. Toronto has a number of options already, including the likes of Laryea, Kadin Chung and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty.
Overall, TFC are making all the right noises (and moves), in their attempts to strengthen what has been a lacklustre back line in recent years. Even a modest improvement should see them return to serious contention for a playoff spot and more in 2023.
Which of the reported targets would you most like Toronto FC to sign (or re-sign in the case of Mavinga)? Are there any other realistic targets you would like to see the Reds target, to help improve their defence? Let us know in the comments section below.