Toronto FC acquires young Argentine forward Lucas Janson on loan

The Canadian Press
Toronto FC acquires young Argentine forward Lucas Janson on loan
Toronto FC acquires young Argentine forward Lucas Janson on loan

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 US$1.295 million 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 (pronounced Yann-son) on the final day of the MLS secondary transfer window, Toronto says it has beefed up its attack.

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.

"Lucas is a player who's shown well both on the wing and a second forward," Toronto FC GM Tim Bezbatchenko said from Vancouver. "He has pace. He has that work ethic to get after defenders on the ball.

"He's not just opportunistic but he'll make the runs in the (penalty) box in order to get in a good position on the defence when the ball's coming from across."

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.

TFC used targeted allocation money, used to help acquire top players like Vazquez without using designated player status, to finance the deal.

"Given the loan structure, we felt like this is a very good signing for us to improve," said Bezbatchenko. "We didn't want to do a whole lot because we felt like the biggest improvement is going to come from our players getting healthy and starting to find our form before the final push."

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 US$50,000 in general allocation money.

General allocation money can be used to pay down the salary-cap hit of a player.

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

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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