Coach Bob Bradley says Toronto FC is "close to finalizing" a new No. 1 goalkeeper, with free agent Sean Johnson the club's expected target.
"Sometimes things just take a little longer than you hope, but I think that we should be just about there with the goalkeeper," Bradley said Tuesday from San Diego, where the MLS team is holding its training camp. "And we're still working on some other things."
Toronto has not identified Johnson but the club has been widely linked to the U.S. international, who spent the last six seasons with New York City FC. Reports that NYCFC is in talks to secure goalkeeper Matt Freese from the Philadelphia Union have added fuel to that fire.
Freese is a backup to Jamaican international Andre Blake in Philadelphia. Blake is the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and the first to earn the honour three times.
Toronto conceded 66 goals last season, tying a franchise worst. Alex Bono and Quentin Westberg, who split the starting duties the last four years, have since moved on — Bono to D.C. United and Westberg to Atlanta United.
TFC has 29-year-old Greg Ranjitsingh, last year's third-stringer, and 22-year-old newcomer Tomas Romero as backups.
The 33-year-old Johnson is entering his 14th MLS season. In 2022, he appeared in all 34 of NYCFC's regular season- matches, with a career high 14 clean sheets while earning his first MLS all-star selection.
Toronto has added defenders Matt Hedges and Raoul Petretta and forward Adama Diomande in the off-season as well as welcoming attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez back to the fold and signing veteran Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio to a new contract. Romero was picked up in the MLS re-entry draft.
The first team roster currently stands at 25 players. While the team has an opening for a designated player, Bradley says there is no plan to fill it at the moment.
"It's not like there's a set guy that we've identified that fits the DP budget that we have," he said.
TFC is scheduled to return to Toronto on Friday before flying back to California on Feb. 2 with pre-season games against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Los Angeles FC, Portland Timbers and Los Angeles Galaxy between Feb. 8 and 18.
Diomande has yet to make it to camp. The Norwegian has been in Toronto while his visa is being settled.
"He should be ready to go with us when we return to California," said Bradley.
Petretta, Toronto's newest signing, is a 25-year-old left back, formerly of Turkey's Kasimpasa Spor Kulubu and Switzerland's FC Basel.
"We knew that the situation in Turkey wasn't exactly what he was hoping for. He had had a really good stretch at Basel," said Bradley. "(He) started there as a young player. Basel's a really good club and obviously he made his way to the first team and he played important matches. His reputation as a guy inside Basel was very positive. Good guy. Really well liked. Trains well."
Bradley said he expects Petretta to combine well with Italian star Lorenzo Insigne on the left flank.
"Raoul's an intelligent player. He's a good passer … He'll understand quickly some of the thing Lorenzo likes to do and find good ways to be able to connect with him."
So far TFC has had just one closed-door scrimmage, with Mexico's Tijuana.
"For 10 days in (camp) I thought it went pretty well," Bradley said of the Sunday match. "Nobody played more than 45 minutes but the tempo of each half was enough to get the kind of physical challenges that they needed at this point.
"There were moments where the play was fluid, where the ball moved quickly. It's early in pre-season so some of the final moments, some of the sharpness around the (penalty) box, those were things that still, of course, need to be improved."
Toronto kicks off the regular season Feb. 25 at D.C. United in a matchup of the league's two worst teams last season. TFC (9-18-7) finished 27th in the standings, seven points above D.C. United (7-21-6).
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2023.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press