TFC notebook: Reds ready to roll into new MLS season

Toronto FC will have some new faces in its matchday roster for its MLS season opener this weekend in Cincinnati.

TFC notebook: Reds ready to roll into new MLS season
TFC Republic is on a free trial this week, so please enjoy this story and many more that will come out from behind the paywall until Sunday, Feb. 25.

You can subscribe to TFC Republic by CLICKING HERE, or by clicking on the subscribe button on the home page. A monthly subscription costs just $8, while a yearly subscription is $50 (a savings of 48%).

Toronto FC continues its preparations for this weekend's MLS regular season opener away to FC Cincinnati.

Here are some news and notes from Friday's practice at the BMO Training Ground.

Richie Laryea returns to the Reds

Richie Laryea is back home. 

Toronto FC announced Friday that it had agreed to terms on a transfer fee with English Premier League side Nottingham Forest FC for the Canadian dfender. The Reds have signed Laryea through 2026 with an option for 2027. According to Chris Wheatley of NationalWorld, the transfer is worth $750,000 US plus bonuses. 

Laryea originally left TFC to join Nottingham Forest via transfer on Jan. 8, 2022. In all, he made just five appearances for Forest during his six months with the club. Prior to his move to England, Laryea played three seasons (2019, 2020 and 2021) with Toronto after signing as a free agent on March 21, 2019. Laryea made 83 appearances across all competitions for the Reds, recording nine goals and adding 12 assists. He was a key member of the TFC side that reached the MLS Cup final in 2019 and he also helped the Reds finish with the second-best record the following season.  

Laryea, 29, now returns to his hometown after recently going on a short loan spell with the Vancouver Whitecaps during the 2023 season where he made 14 appearances across all competitions and registered one goal and three assists. Laryea also featured for TFC during another loan spell from 2022 to 2023, scoring two goals and adding seven assists through 29 appearances.   

This is a big move for a Toronto side that is coming off its worst ever MLS campaign and was in desperate need of quality players with the start of the 2024 season right around the corner. Laryea trained with the team on Friday and is expected to play in Cincinnati 

"Amazing. Absolutely amazing. It's been in the works for a while. So, to finally get [the deal] over the line before the Cincy game was a big one. ... I'm just happy he’s here and you can feel the uplift in the dressing room," coach John Herdman said after Friday's practice. 

The tough questions facing Toronto FC this season
What kind of captain will Jonathan Osorio be? Will the Italian DPs buy in? Can TFC get a handle on their injury issues?

Kevin Long had MLS in the back of his mind

TFC made a move to strengthen its defence earlier this week when it announced the transfer signing of Irish centre back Kevin Long from Birmingham City of the EFL Championship. 

Toronto conceded 59 times during the 2023 MLS campaign and had the second worst defensive record in the league. Before that TFC coughed up a franchise-high 66 goals in each of their previous two seasons, so defending has been a longstanding issue for the Reds.  

Long comes to MLS with loads of experience. Before joining Birmingham last January, Long spent 13 years with Burnley where he featured in both the Championship and the Premier League. He also had loan stints with a number of English clubs, including Portsmouth and Barnsley. He made his pro debut in 2009 with Irish club Cork City where he came up through the youth ranks.  

It'll be up to Long, 33, to bring some solidity to a back line that otherwise remains pretty much the same from last season. Although primarily a central defender, Long has also been deployed as a fullback, so he can offer the team some much needed positional versatility.   

"It was always in the back of my head that I wanted to give [MLS] a try. I spent 14 years in England. I achieved a lot of what I wanted to achieve in England, and I think when the opportunity came about it was something I really wanted to try," Long told reporters on Friday. 

He later added: "We had three different managers [at Birmingham City]; it never really helps. I had an injury in that time as well so there were a lot of changes there and the club wanted to go in a certain direction. .... All I could do was play and I think when I played, I played really well. There were a lot of changes there and unfortunately I wasn't part of the plans." 

Long trained with the team on Friday and said he is ready to play in Cincinnati if needed. 

Will Herdman have same effect on Toronto FC’s players as he did with Canada?
TFC Republic in conjunction with Footy Prime is proud to present the debut episode of the TFC 3 Questions podcast.

Odds and ends

  • Toronto FC was careful about how they used Lorenzo Insigne in pre-season, limiting his minutes so that he'll be fully fit for the start of the MLS campaign. John Herdman said the plan is to continue to manage the Italian's minutes during the regular season. "When you look at Napoli ... he never played every game. He played 80 per cent of the games and rarely did he ever finish a game," Herdman offered. "We'll manage him so he can play as many games, start as many games as he can."
  • Canada Soccer completed the draw for the preliminary round of the 2024 Canadian Championship on Friday. Toronto FC will host reigning League1 Ontario champions Simcoe County Rovers FC. The preliminary round runs from  April 23 to May 1. The winner of the TFC-Simcoe match advances to the two-legged quarter-final series in May when it will play the winner of the preliminary round between the CPL's Halifax Wanderers FC and CS St-Laurent of Ligue1 Québec. The two-legged semifinals will take place in July and August. The one-legged final is slated for late September.
  • Former Toronto FC assistant coach Paul Stalteri is now a coach with TFC's youth academy.
  • MLS clubs are taking a new approach with their official injury reports this season, as they will be published on the league's website by 5:00 p.m. ET on the day before each team's game.
  • Fans from TFC's several official supporters groups attended the team's practice on Friday.

Looking ahead to Sunday's road game vs. Cincinnati

Sunday's season opener is the first game between Toronto FC and FC Cincinnati since the Reds dropped a 3-2 decision to the Ohio-based club on Sept. 20, 2023, at BMO Field.  

Jonathan Osorio scored a first-half brace, but Aaron Boupendza netted the winner in the 72nd minute as the Orange and Black secured the Supporters’ Shield for the first time in club history. Earlier in the 2023 season, Cincinnati blanked Toronto 3-0 at TQL Stadium in Bob Bradley's second last game in charge before being fired.  

The reigning regular season champions enter this weekend on a bit of a hot streak having won their final three matches of the pre-season after suffering a 2-1 loss to Austin FC on Jan. 26. They are also coming off a road 2-0 win in Jamaica vs. Cavalier F.C. on Thursday in the Concacaf Champions Cup.  

"With Cincy, what I noticed about the game [in Jamaica] was it was played at a really low tempo. Cavalier played in a really low block, and I'd say it was probably 30 per cent of the match intensity from an MLS game. They'll be riding high [after the win], so while they'll be a little out of the [gas] tank from those players, there'll be a confidence boost. There's a resilience and unity around that team," John Herdman said. 

Cincinnati leads the all-time regular season series against Toronto with six wins (no draws) in 10 meetings. The Orange and Blue have won six of the last seven games and four in a row. 

(Top photo courtesy of Raul Romero Toronto FC)


TFC Republic subscribers can get up to a 25% discount on ticket prices for Toronto FC home games.

To receive the special promo code, email me at To receive the special promo code, email me at

(Please don't share promo code with non-TFC Republic subscribers).