Welcome to the latest edition of TFC Republic Weekly, a free email newsletter that will land in the inbox of both paid subscribers and free members of TFC Republic every Monday.
This newsletter will look at what's in store over the next seven days for Toronto FC, and set up their schedule of games for the week.
You'll also get a glimpse of what to expect at TFC Republic in the coming days.
So, without further ado...
Will Giovinco be back at TFC in 2022?
Toronto FC created a bit of a buzz earlier last week when it announced that former star forward Sebastian Giovinco was invited to its pre-season training camp in California.
He ended up playing 30 minutes in an exhibition game on Saturday as TFC came out on the wrong end of a 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Teenage forward Deandre Kerr bagged a brace, while Jayden Nelson and Jordan Perruzza also scored for the Reds at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Giovinco, 35 was sold by Toronto to Al-Hilal of the Saudi Professional League in 2019, and is currently a free agent. The Italian forward had informal talks with TFC this off-season about returning to the club, but nothing concrete came out of those discussions.
Essentially, Giovinco is on trial with TFC at the moment, but it should be also noted that as a former MLS player who was sold to a foreign club for a transfer fee, he simply can’t re-sign with Toronto.
Instead, he must go through the MLS allocation order, a league mechanism that determines which team has first priority to acquire a former player on the allocation ranking list. Toronto currently holds the No. 3 spot behind Inter Miami CF and FC Cincinnati, which means they would have to make a trade with Miami to get the No. 1 ranking, thus allowing them to sign Giovinco.
Still, the fact that the Italian has received a camp invite hints that a pathway could exist for the Italian to return to TFC on a full-time basis.
Toronto's DP situation
Sources tell TFC Republic that Toronto FC has agreed to terms with Mexico international defender Carlos Salcedo from Mexican club Tigres UANL as part of a swap that will see Yeferson Soteldo go the other way in the deal.
Salcedo, 28, will be signed to a multi-year contract, and will join TFC as its newest Designated Player. A native of Guadalajara, Salcedo began his pro career in MLS with Real Salt Lake in 2013, and has also played in Italy with Fiorentina and Germany's Eintracht Frankfurt. He has earned 48 caps for Mexico since making his international debut in April 2015, and played for his country at the 2018 World Cup.
Toronto conceded a franchise-worst 66 goals in 2021, the second-worst defensive record in MLS. The hope is that Salcedo will be able to add some strength, quality and leadership to a back line that was sorely missing all three of those qualities last season. Even with Soteldo leading for Tigres, Salcedo's arrival means TFC has three DPs on their current roster. Future DP Lorenzo Insigne isn't scheduled to join the team until July 1, giving Toronto extra time to get rid of one of its DPs to make room for the Italian. League rules limit each team to only three DPs at a time.
The odd man out is Jozy Altidore, who remains under contract but isn't currently with the team at pre-season camp in California. Trading or selling the veteran striker doesn't seem likely, as he is coming off two injury-plagued seasons in which he only scored six MLS goals.
League rules allow clubs to buy out one player from his contract per year. But here's the catch: In order to get the associated salary cap relief, the buyout must happen before the start of the regular season. Teams can still buy out a player once the season starts, but they don't get any salary cap relief at all. So with TFC set to kick off the 2022 campaign away to FC Dallas on Feb. 26, they have to act quickly if they want to get Altidore's salary off the books.
CanMNT vs. El Salvador on Wednesday
Canada isn't in a position to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup when it plays in El Salvador this week. But the Canadians can move that much closer to punching their ticket for Qatar with a victory over La Selecta.
Canada has won five games in a row in the final round of the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers, and is coming off a 2-0 victory over the United States in Hamilton on Sunday. That result kept Canada (6-0-4) top of the table (22 points) with four games remaining. The U.S. (18) is in second place, followed by Mexico (18), Panama (17), Costa Rica (13), Jamaica (seven), El Salvador (six) and Honduras (three)
The finale of the Concacaf qualifiers, known as “The Octagon,” kicked off last September and runs until March, with all eight teams facing each other home and away. The top three nations at the end of the 14-match group stage automatically qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The fourth-place team moves on to the intercontinental playoffs with a World Cup berth at stake. It would take a stunning collapse for Canada not to qualify for the World Cup. But coach John Herdman maintains that the players can't lose their focus.
“We’ve got a long way to go. We’re not qualified yet. First thing we said when we brought the boys together at the end of the game is that it’s not done. It starts again tomorrow; we have El Salvador (on Wednesday). We’re not there yet. We need some more points… I won’t let these boys off the hook. They’ll get a little bit of time to enjoy the moment and then we’re back at it. And we have to keep staying humble. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. We’re not there yet. Four games to go and a few more points to put in the bag,” Herdman told reporters after the U.S. game.
Canada's previous match vs. El Salvador was last September when it earned a 3-0 win at BMO Field on Matchday 3 of the Concacaf qualifiers. Atiba Hutchinson, Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan scored for the home side, who was missing Alphonso Davies through injury. Canada leads the all-time series against El Salvador with nine wins and four draws in 18 meetings dating back to 1977.
RELATED READING: TFC Republic newsletter || Feature stories || Match reports || Opinion pieces || Q&As || Video blogs || News
Stories to look out for at TFC Republic
Toronto FC's signing of Lorenzo Insigne has been heralded as a transformative move for MLS, as it sees one of the best attacking players in European soccer join the league while still in the prime of his career.
But how is his move being viewed in Italy? How are Napoli fans reacting to the loss of their long-time captain? And what will this mean for Insigne's national team career?
I spoke to Paddy Agnew, a Rome-based journalist who is the Italian correspondent for World Soccer magazine, to find out what the reaction is in Italy about Insigne coming to Toronto. Look for my story in the coming days.
Other stories that will be published later this week include:
- My look at the current state of the TFC roster in pre-season training camp.
- In-depth pre- and post-game coverage of Canada's World Cup qualifying match vs. El Salvador on Wednesday.
- Peter Galindo returns with his weekly tactical and analytical column.
- The latest edition of the Reader Mailbag.
- The seventh part of a continuing video blog series looking back at historic moments in the history of Toronto FC.
- And much more!
TFC Republic mailbag
TFC Republic will feature a regular reader mailbag column where I answer questions from subscribers about Toronto FC and Canadian soccer in general.
(Top photo courtesy of torontofc.ca)
The TFC Republic newsletter comes out every Monday, and will be emailed to both paid and free members. All other content at TFC Republic is behind the paywall, and you'll need to be a subscriber to access it. It costs only $8 for a one-month subscription, or $50 for a full year (prices include 13% GST/HST). What a great deal, eh? Don't miss out, and order your TFC Republic subscription today!