The Nana Attakora and Toronto FC saga has come to an end.
The Major League Soccer club has traded Attakora to the San Jose Earthquakes, the Canadian defender confirmed to CBCSports.ca on Thursday.
Also going to San Jose as part of the trade are forward Alan Gordon and midfielder Jacob Peterson. In exchange, TFC receives forward Ryan Johnson, allocation money and an international roster spot.
A 22-year-old native of North York, Ont., the defender has been with the club since it entered MLS in 2007. He said he found out about the trade via text message from Sam Cronin, a former TFC teammate who now plays for San Jose.
Aron Winter, TFC’s head coach and technical director, then called Attakora minutes later to officially deliver the news.
"It’s exciting but it’s sad at the same time. I’ve spent my whole career here and it is my home city, so it’s disappointing, but I’m also happy for the change and the new challenge," Attakora said.
Attakora’s future became the hot topic of discussion earlier this season when he claimed he was being frozen out by club management because of his unwillingness to agree to a contract extension with the team. The Canadian defender was in the last year of his deal with the Reds and wanted to play out his contract because he was uncertain about the future of the club
In a sense, it was inevitable that he would be traded.
Attakora did not change his stance about wanting to wait until the end of the season before considering re-signing with the club. That put TFC in a difficult situation because Attakora became eligible to explore his options and sign with another team starting on July 1, and if he did, TFC would not have received anything in return.
Looking back on how it played out, Attakora said he wished "things would have worked out differently than they did," but maintained he has no hard feelings toward Toronto FC or club management.
"I’m not bitter, not at all. It happens in this business. For me, it was a learning experience. I’m happy to have learned that lesson now, so later on in the future I will know how to better deal with it," Attakora stated.
After joining TFC in 2007, Attakora made his professional debut the following year under former coach John Carver. Since then, he blossomed into one of the Reds' most consistent players, although a few error-filled performances and an injury to one of his quadriceps limited him to six appearances this season. He played 50 matches over the previous three campaigns for the Reds.
"I’m happy. I’m happy with the situation I am in and I’m excited to go to San Jose and help them push towards a playoff spot," he said.
Attakora revealed his injury status has improved — he last played for Toronto on June 4 — and that he returned to full training this week.
He said he is set to join his new team ahead of its upcoming games against the Columbus Crew (on July 16) and the Vancouver Whitecaps (July 20), but San Jose general manager John Doyle told him that the club does not intend to rush him back to action until he is fully recovered.
"He told me they were in no hurry, and would only use me when they feel I am back to full fitness," Attakora said.
Attakora’s national team career could be revitalized with regular playing time in San Jose — he represented Canada at several different youth levels, but has earned only one cap with the senior team.
He’s also looking forward to playing under San Jose coach Frank Yallop, who was in charge of Canada’s national team from 2006 to 2007.
"Frank is a well-respected coach and that in and of itself will help me out, but I’m not so focused on going to San Jose to help out my national team career. I need time to develop more and I’m just excited for the chance to play for Frank," Attakora said.
Johnson, 26, is a Jamaican international forward that has scored 17 goals in 99 appearances for San Jose since 2008.
Gordon, 29, was traded by Chivas USA to Toronto in March. While dealing with a series of nagging injuries, he managed to score four goals in eight MLS games for the Reds this season.
Peterson, 25, was in his second year with TFC, having joined the club in January, 2010 following a trade from the Colorado Rapids. He leaves Toronto having scored one goal in 37 MLS matches.