With only 14 returning players currently in camp, new Toronto FC head coach Bob Bradley has taken a sledgehammer to a roster that compiled a dismal 6-18-10 record last season.
Brazil's Auro and fellow defender Kemar Lawrence, a Jamaican international, are the latest out the door although Bradley did not provide final destinations. Auro reportedly is headed to Brazil's Santos FC on loan.
An announcement on Jozy Altidore's future is coming "shortly," according to Bradley, who doubles as TFC's sporting director. It appears the club is negotiating a buyout, with the New England Revolution reportedly waiting in the wings for the star striker, who spent close to two months on the outs with Toronto last season.
"As you know there's been all sorts of speculation. And now we just wait to get some final details," Bradley said of Altidore, who ranked seventh on the league's pay scale last season at US$3.6 million.
The list of already departed is nearing 20 and includes designated player Yeferson Soteldo, Omar Gonzalez, Mark Delgado, Nick DeLeon, Eriq Zavaleta, Dom Dwyer, Richie Laryea, Patrick Mullins, Liam Fraser and Erickson Gallardo. Bradley said the club is looking to send 21-year-old defender Luke Singh on loan to get playing time.
While not one to talk much about the club before his arrival, Bradley suggested Tuesday that the roster he inherited was out of kilter.
"One of the big challenges when you come into a situation is you try to get an idea of where everybody stands with things" Bradley said in a virtual availability Tuesday. "In different ways, in the last year or even two years, I think with Toronto playing outside of Canada so often and then the team not doing well last year, I immediately got a sense when I got here that there were just guys in different places, guys that weren't as committed to the club as they might have been earlier.
"Guys that in different moments just hadn't been committed to all the things that you need to do to be part of a winning team. And so we've had to look at all these different possibilities and see how we can try to move forward."
Bradley has said the team-building will continue into the season with Italian star Lorenzo Insigne, for example, not expected until July when his Napoli contract expires.
But he sees progress.
"Based upon what I see every day in training, I think we're going in a good direction," he said. "We'll be ready to start the season and then we'll continue to build on the roster and build on the ideas as we get going.
"The process of building a really good team, especially when you come into a situation where there is a lot of unknowns and a lot of questions-marks, that's where it just takes time."
Still the work continues, with league approval needed for some roster moves.
"Everything takes longer than you'd like … The work to get it where we want it to be will take more time," said Bradley. "But the most important part of all that is to see a group of players start to come together every day. And I really feel good about the way the leadership of the team has set the tone and the way young guys have picked up ideas — and what that amounts to every day when we got on the field."
Bradley talked up newly acquired Spanish forward Jesus Jimenez, who spent the last four seasons with Poland's Gornik Zabrze.
"He's a very interesting attacker," Bradley said. "I really like the way he moves. He's creative, he's skilful … He's a good dribbler. He scores different kinds of goals. That's always something that I love to see in attackers, that they've got a way to get into the box and score in a variety of ways."
Jimenez, who scored 43 goals in 134 appearances for Gornik in all competitions, said he chose to come to Toronto because MLS is on the rise.
"When I got the call from Toronto FC, I was very excited because I think it's a good step for me so I can continue growing in my career," he said through an interpreter.
Jimenez said his preferred position is striker but can adapt to other positions as needed.
The team has relocated to Austin in preparation for the Feb. 26 season opener at FC Dallas. It will train at Austin FC's practice facility with pre-season games against Austin FC on Wednesday, the Chicago Fire on Saturday, the Houston Dynamo on Feb. 16 and Sporting Kansas City on Feb. 19.
Toronto split its first pre-season games, losing 5-4 to the Los Angeles Galaxy and defeating Los Angeles FC 2-1.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2022
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press