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Toronto FC acquires Mexican defender Carlos Salcedo, transfers Yeferson Soteldo

Toronto FC bolstered its backline Monday with blue-chip defender Carlos Salcedo while saying goodbye to Venezuelan winger Yeferson Soteldo.

Toronto FC bolstered its backline Monday with blue-chip defender Carlos Salcedo while saying goodbye to Venezuelan winger Yeferson Soteldo.

Salcedo, a Mexican international who is signed through 2024 as a designated player, comes from Mexico's Tigres UANL but has also played in MLS, Italy and Germany. Soteldo, meanwhile is headed to Tigres after one season in TFC colours.

While Toronto called them two separate transactions, they are intertwined. Soteldo's departure provides the designated player opening Salcedo needed.

Toronto hopes Salcedo will instil the steel in defence that was absent last season when TFC gave up a franchise-worst 66 goals during a dismal 6-18-10 campaign. Nicknamed El Titan for his strength in the air and on the ground, the six-foot 183-pounder seems the right man for the job.

"Carlos is a strong defender with a winning mentality," Bob Bradley. Toronto's head coach and sporting director, said from California. "He competes, he makes defensive plays and he's also very good on the ball."

In addition, Salcedo is a good passer, able to distribute the ball.

Salcedo, whom Bradley says can play left or right centre back as well as in a back three, joins incumbent Chris Mavinga and newcomers Shane O'Neill and Lukas MacNaughton in a revamped heart of the defence.

TFC kept digging a hole for itself in 2021, conceding a league-worst 15 goals in the first 15 minutes of games. Toronto was 2-17-6 when allowing the first goal in a dismal season that saw it finish 26th out of 27 teams with a 6-18-10 record. 

The 28-year-old Salcedo, who started his pro career in MLS with Real Salt Lake, has won 48 caps for Mexico, making his international debut in April 2015, and started all four matches at the 2018 World Cup.

“I look forward to playing in front of Toronto FC fans, making them proud and making history with the club,” Salcedo said in a statement.

The Mexican arrives with a virtual entourage -- 959,000 followers on Instagram and 357,000 on Twitter.

Salcedo arrived in camp Saturday and was involved in the opening part of Monday's session after undergoing a series of routine tests. The hope is he can take part in the full training session Tuesday.

Soteldo is the 15th player out the door from last year's first-team roster. And judging from Toronto's two-paragraph release announcing his departure, the club is moving on quickly.

The 24-year-old showed flashes of brilliance with Toronto recording four goals and 10 assists in 26 appearances in all competitions. Elusive on the ball, he tormented defenders at times. But his season was interrupted by injury and his body language on the field sometimes suggested he wasn't a happy camper. 

With Italian star Lorenzo Insigne set to join the club in July when his contract with Napoli expires, Toronto has more roster work to do. It's expected TFC will buy out the contract of striker Jozy Altidore, who spent close to two months on the outs with the club last season, to create a DP slot for Insigne.

Asked about Altidore's status, Bradley declined comment Monday.

Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, named league MVP in 2020, remains with the club as the other DP. 

Toronto also has former star forward Sebastian Giovinco in camp. The 35-year-old Italian, the club's all-time leading scorer who won league MVP honours with Toronto in 2015, is currently without a contract but says he wants to finish his career in TFC colours. 

Giovinco played 30 minutes of Toronto's 5-4 pre-season loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.

Bradley, while noting it was Giovinco's first game since May, said the Italian was clearly excited to be back with the team.

"It's been good to just see the mentality that Seba has had about being here and the way he's jumped into training in a really positive way."

Salcedo made a combined 102 appearances for Tigres and scored seven goals in all competitions. He won the 2019 Clausura Championship and was a part of the Tigres squad that won the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League. 

A native of Guadalajara, Salcedo is a graduate of the Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy. His father, Carlos, played with academy director Martin Vasquez at Guadalajara-based Club Atlas while his grandfather Manuel played for Chivas Guadalajara in the 1950s.

Salcedo signed with Real Salt Lake as a homegrown player in January 2013, scoring nine goals in 43 appearances over two seasons with the club. Before joining the RSL academy, Salcedo was a part of Tigres’ and Guadalajara youth systems. 

Salcedo left MLS for Mexico in 2015, joining Chivas Guadalajara for two seasons. In August 2016, he went on a short loan to Fiorentina, becoming only the third Mexican to play in Italy after Miguel Layun and Rafael Marquez. He went out on loan to Germany's Eintracht Frankfurt in June 2017. 

In two seasons with Frankfurt, Salcedo appeared in 34 matches, scored eight goals in all competitions and won the 2017-18 German Cup. 

Soteldo joined Toronto last April in a US$6.5-million transfer from Brazil's Santos FC, where he wore the same No. 10 that Brazilian legend Pele had at the club. The five-foot-two winger signed through 2025 with a salary of US$1.965 million last season, according to the MLS Players Association. 

At the time, team president Bill Manning called Soteldo "a dynamic, exciting, fearless player who will immediately improve our already strong roster.” Then GM Ali Curtis described Soteldo as a "difference maker." 

Soteldo filled the DP spot left by Argentina’s Pablo Piatti, whose option was not picked up by the MLS club after the 2020 season. 

MLS rules allow for teams to have up to three designated players with only a portion of their salary counting against the club's salary budget. Last season the maximum salary budget charge for a DP was US$612,500. 

Pozuelo earned US$4.693 million, fourth-most in the league, while Altidore was the seventh-highest at US$3.6 million. 

MLS teams are allowed to buy out one contract in the off-season without it counting against the cap. 


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press