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Toronto FC Update 2008  By Aldwyn McGill
TFC grab five players with top-level college experience for 2008             
Toronto FC's selected Julius James and Pat Phelan in the first round of the MLS 2008 Super Draft James, who is also a Trinidad and Tobago youth international, anchored the back line for a strong University of Connecticut side, while Phelan's consistency and versatility helped Wake Forest University win the NCAA championship

Mo Johnston and his staff compiled another promising group of young talent as TFC grabbed five players with top-level college beginning with highly touted defenders Julius James and Pat Phelan in the first round,

 

"It's going to be a process, and my mind is really open," said James, who was quick to cite Toronto's large West Indian community as a major factor that should ease his adjustment to a new environment. "So I'll have to go through a very steep learning curve, and I hope the technical staff and the guys over there are going to help me with that."

 

Johnston clearly believes that both players possess the ability to make a splash on par with Edu's MLS Rookie of the Year performance in 2007. "We are delighted to have two players of the quality of Julius and Pat," said Johnston. "Both had superb senior years and we think they are capable of battling for a place in our first eleven.

 

From what we have seen and heard they have all the attributes to be solid professionals."

Phelan's college teammate Brian Edwards soon joined him in TFC colors, as the Reds sent allocation money to the LA Galaxy in exchange for the 28th overall pick and selected the former Demon Deacons goalkeeper.

 

 Edwards was delighted to join his fellow Wake product, and in light of Toronto's struggles between the posts in 2007, expressed high hopes for garnering significant playing time in his rookie season.

"As a player, you're very competitive and you always want to challenge for those minutes on the field, and I feel like this is a great situation to do that," said Edwards. "I'm really looking forward to it."

 

"I'm just really excited to play in that environment in Toronto," said Edwards. "I know they sell out all their games, and you could hear them here over the course of the draft giving some of the other fans a little bit of stick. As for me, I'm going to put all my efforts forward, just going to lay it out on the line for them, and hopefully they'll really respect that."

 

Johnston selected defender Mike Zaher, a former U.S. youth international, in the third round (30th pick overall) before using TFC's final draft selection to take a flyer on striker Joseph Lapira with the 35th overall slot.

The Notre Dame standout and 2006 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy winner holds an Irish passport and is understood to be strongly considering the European club opportunities that it opens up. But should Lapira wind up in MLS, Toronto will own the rights to a prospect worthy of a first-round pick.

 

Even more promising, TFC's fanatical fan support and cozy BMO Field home have already established the young club as an inviting destination for quality players.

 

Johnston makes move to TFC front office

Mo Johnston has moved to the executive offices at BMO Field as the manager and Director of Soccer Operations of the Toronto FC while Englishman John Carver, 43, was hired to fill the coach position. Johnston said he was ecstatic with the chance to manage the club as he can now devote his time to finding the best available players for Toronto FC. "I'm really excited at the chance to try a totally new challenge," he said. "It's a great opportunity to step into a job like this having been involved with the team from the outset."

Mo Johnston is confident that his move to the front office would not impact the TFC team performance and the 6-17-7 record of last season should be attainable and improved by new coach John Carver that is providing the team is not hit with the amount of injuries it suffered last season.

"John is someone who is very organized and he has a good eye for talent," Johnston said. "He brings extensive experience from the Champions League and the Premiership." Carver will consult with Johnston over personnel decisions, and long-term player procurement planning.   

"We are pleased to expand Mo Johnston's duties to club manager and director of soccer operations," said Tom Anselmi, chief operating officer for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. "Mo will continue to be responsible for all aspects of soccer operations and we are providing him with more resources to support his objectives."

Toronto FC opens their preseason Feb. 4 in Bradenton, Florida. The season kicks off March 29 in Columbus against the Crew. The club's home opener is set for Sat. April 19 against Real Salt Lake.
Mike Ulmer is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

 

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