First, Nana Attakora lost his spot in Toronto FC's starting line-up. Now, it looks as though he's lost his spot on the team altogether.
Attakora has not played for the Reds since mid-April and he did not fly with his teammates to Texas for their match against FC Dallas Wednesday night. Attakora's agent Marcos Serioux claims the defender is being frozen out by club management because of his unwillingness to agree to a contract extension with the Major League Soccer team.
"Why is he not playing? For one reason alone: he hasn't agreed to a new contract. It's that obvious, I think," Serioux told CBCSports.ca.
Serioux said the club is "trying to make a point" with Attakora; that by benching him they hope to pressure the defender into agreeing to a contract extension.
"It's a tactic on their part. Maybe they think because he's not willing to re-sign that he's not in the frame of mind to be a part of the team," said Serioux. "If that's the case, they need to figure out whether to cut their losses and get what they can for him."
Attakora declined to comment when reached by CBCSports.ca, but confirmed he felt he was being punished by the club for not agreeing to a new deal.
Attakora, a 22-year-old native of Toronto, is in the last year of his current contract, which expires on Dec. 31. He was one of the lowest-paid players on Toronto FC last season when he earned $40,000 US. Serioux said the club tabled an improved contract offer in January, but the defender turned it down.
Wants to play out his contract
Serioux explained that Attakora wants to play out his contract because he is uncertain about the future. Since its inaugural MLS season in 2007, TFC has gone through six coaches. Dutchman Aron Winter was hired in January, taking over as coach and technical director.
Serioux said the managerial merry-go-round is the main reason why Attakora is in no rush to re-sign with TFC.
"He's been here five years and he's seen five coaches," said Serioux. "Nana loves what he's seen from Winter, but he doesn't know where he will be in two years.
"Nana is an asset to the club, and TFC knows that given his age and his ability. But at the same time he's earned the right to wait to see how things play out."
After joining TFC in 2007, Attakora made his professional debut the following year under former coach John Carver. Since then, he has blossomed into one of the Reds' most consistent players, so it hardly comes as a surprise that the club wants to lock him up.
But the clock is ticking because Attakora is eligible to explore his options and sign with another team starting on July 1, and if he does, TFC would not receive anything in return.
"It's in the club's hands now. He's been pretty clear about not wanting to sign anything [until the end of the season]. At this point, they can't afford not to get anything back for him," Serioux stated.
Attakora looked far from his best in the team's 2011 season opener, a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, and he didn't play in the Reds' 2-0 win against Portland the following week because of injury.
Error-filled performances in TFC's next two games (in which he was subbed out both times) saw Attakora lose his spot in the starting line-up when Toronto was held to a 0-0 draw by the L.A. Galaxy on April 13.
After sitting on the bench against the Galaxy, Attakora told CBCSports.ca that his disjointed play this season was due to him dealing with "personal issues."
Three days after the L.A. match, he came on as a first-half substitute in a 3-0 loss to D.C. United. That was Attakora's last appearance for the Reds.
Serioux said he would be surprised if Attakora finished the season as a member of Toronto FC.
"He's definitely on the trade block. That's the best way I could put it right now. They're looking to move him," claimed Serioux. "They're taking phone calls and getting offers, so whatever they do now will be in the best interest of the club."
CBCSports.ca contacted Toronto FC, but the club declined to comment.