Toronto FC bolsters attack, acquires Argentine Lucas Janson
Impact sign former Arsenal, Manchester City right back Bacary Sagna
Toronto FC has acquired Lucas Janson on loan from Argentina's Tigre, hoping the young South American forward will add to its offensive options.
While the MLS champions have potent weapons in Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Victor Vazquez and Canadian Jonathan Osorio, they have struggled to create at times — especially in the injury absence of Altidore (foot) and Vazquez (knee), who have missed a combined 24 league games.
The quartet has still accounted for 23 of Toronto's 37 goals this season. Backup strikers Tosaint Ricketts, Jordan Hamilton and Ayo Akinola have five goals between them in limited playing time.
The rest of the midfield has contributed three goals.
Toronto had brought in Spanish midfielder Ager Aketxe to add more creativity to its offence but the off-season acquisition — whose salary of $1.295 million US ranked fifth on the team — never bedded in and was sent back on loan to Spain in July after just one assist in 11 league outings.
In landing Janson on the final day of the MLS secondary transfer window, Toronto says it has beefed up its attack.
"Lucas is a young, dynamic player that has the ability to play out wide, up front and centrally as an attacking midfielder," Toronto FC GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. "We wanted to bring in a player that gives us multiple options in the attack and Lucas fits that need. We are excited to bring him in on loan and get him integrated into the group."
Video highlights show Janson to be an opportunistic, pacey forward, slick with his feet and good in the air despite his five-foot-seven stature. But Aketxe also arrived with impressive video credentials.
Aketxe's signing was announced three days after the opening of TFC's CONCACAF Champions League campaign in February and coach Greg Vanney was reluctant to insert the newcomer into such high-stakes games. The Spaniard played just 32 minutes, all off the bench, in the remaining seven Champions League games.
Aketxe also wasn't helped by Toronto's injury crisis. He was seen as needing players to run off him and they weren't available.
Janson, who turns 24 on Aug. 16, offers a new set of skills, potentially as goal-scorer and playmaker.
He spent the last six seasons at Tigre, where he had 10 goals and 10 assists in 82 league appearances. Janson had three goals and three assists in 24 appearances (16 starts) last season at Tigre, which finished 24th in the top-flight Superliga with a 4-11-12 record that featured just 26 goals for.
The 148-pounder joined the Tigre first team from its under-20 team ahead of the 2012-13 season.
Back to business
TFC used targeted allocation money, used to help acquire top players like Vazquez without using designated player status, to finance the deal.
While defence has been Toronto's main problem this season — it has conceded 41 goals in 22 games compared to 37 goals in 34 games in the 2017 championship season — the feeling is normal service has resumed in the backline with the return of injured players.
Toronto (6-11-5) remains six points out of a playoff spot but, finally healthy again, was riding a five-game unbeaten streak going into Wednesday's first leg of the Canadian Championship final in Vancouver.
Toronto had made several previous deals to set the table for the Janson acquisition.
With the departure of Aketxe and fellow midfielder Mariano Mino, TFC had two unused international slots. It traded one of those last Friday to Los Angeles FC in exchange for $50,000 US in general allocation money.
General allocation money can be used to pay down the salary-cap hit of a player.
South American ventures
South America has been hit or miss for TFC in recent years, although Brazilian wingback Auro is having a banner debut season in MLS.
Argentina's Maxi Urruti was a high-profile signing from Newell's Old Boys in 2013 but played just two games for TFC before being shipped to Portland. He now calls FC Dallas home, with 27 goals and 12 assists in the last three seasons.
Argentine Matias Laba played 16 games for Toronto in 2013 but was rendered surplus to requirements as a designated player by the arrival of Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley, and Brazil's Gilberto. Laba went on to play four seasons in Vancouver before returning home.
Gilberto scored seven goals in 28 games for Toronto in 2014.
Brazilians Paulo Nagamura, Jackson, Maicon Santos and Julio Cesar, Argentina's Pablo Vitti and Martin Saric, and Chile's Miguel Aceval have also worn Toronto's colours
Bacary Sagna joins Montreal
The Montreal Impact signed former Arsenal and Manchester City right back Bacary Sagna for the rest of the 2018 season, with an option for 2019, the MLS club announced Wednesday.
Sagna, 35, played 10 seasons in the English Premier League. The French international was named to the Professional Footballers' Association team of the year in 2007-08 and 2010-11.
"I'm very happy of Bacary's arrival," Impact coach Remi Garde said in a statement. "He's a player with a great career who's still very motivated to come and help the Impact defy its end-of-season challenge.
"His personality, experience, and overall game will be a plus for our team."
Sagna played seven seasons for Arsenal, helping the London club win the FA Cup in 2013 and 2014.. He joined Manchester City in 2014 for three seasons, finishing runner-up in the league in 2014-15 before winning the League Cup in 2015-16.
At the international level, Sagna earned 65 caps with the French national team. He appeared in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and the Euro 2016, in which he played every minute including the final against Portugal.
He spent the second half of the 2017-18 season with Benevento in Italy.
The Sens, France, native began his pro career with Auxerre in 2004.
Before signing Sagna, the Impact acquired an international roster spot from the Portland Timbers for $50,000 in general allocation money. Undisclosed future considerations could add $40,000 to the total.
Right back has been a trouble spot for the Impact this season that Sagna's talent and experience could fix. With Zakaria Diallo about to return from an Achilles heel injury, the club will be deep on defence with centrebacks Rod Fanni and Rudy Camacho as well as left backs Daniel Lovitz and Jukka Raitala already in place.
Impact trade Oduro for Earthquakes' Amarikwa
The Impact also acquired forward Quincy Amarikwa from the San Jose Earthquakes for little-used striker Dominic Oduro and added defensive midfielder Micheal Azira from the Colorado Rapids for a 2020 fourth round draft pick.
Azira, a Uganda international, has his U.S. green card and does not need an international roster spot. The 30-year-old has played five seasons in MLS with Seattle and Colorado, appearing in 91 regular season games.
Amarikwa, 30, has two assists in 14 games this season. The American has 24 goals and 19 assists in 190 MLS regular-season games, including 91 starts. He has also played for the Colorado Rapids, Toronto FC, and the Chicago Fire.
He was nominated for the MLS comeback player of the year award in 2017, after suffering a serious knee injury in 2016.
Oduro, 32, played four seasons with the Impact, posting 15 goals and six assists in 89 regular-season games. He stood out especially during the Impact's run to the Eastern Conference final in 2016.
However, he was out of favour with Garde from the outset and was used sparingly this season.
With files from The Canadian Press