November 22, 2006 Toronto FC adds to roster (from Canadian Press)

Toronto FC adds to roster

Does having Canadian players on its roster make you want to watch the MLS Toronto FC's games more?
Toronto FC adds four Canadians

TORONTO (CP) - There's no goalie yet but Toronto FC finally has 11 players to call its own.

The expansion MLS franchise introduced Canadian defenders Adam Braz, Chris Pozniak and Marco Reda along with Irish midfielder Ronnie O'Brien at a news conference 114 floors up at the CN Tower on Wednesday. It was a special moment for the Canadians, wearing their new Toronto FC jerseys.

"This is an opportunity to play real soccer in Canada, at a real good level," said Pozniak, a native of nearby Aurora. "And that's what I always wanted to do."

There were smiles all round, despite the fact that O'Brien does not like heights.

Coach Mo Johnston made Canadian midfielder Jim Brennan his first signing in September before adding 10 more players in last Friday's expansion draft and signing the three Canadian defenders to multi-year contracts.

He has now moved five of the expansion picks, including Canadian international Adrian Serioux, who was dealt to Dallas along with a second-round draft pick for O'Brien. The team's latest move involved sending midfielder Tom Regan to New York for forward Edson Buddle.

"This is just a start," said Johnston.

Johnston said he needs more Canadian players but moved Serioux because he thought upgrades were possible at the position. "Trust me, there's bigger and better to come in that position."

Johnston also relished the addition of O'Brien, formerly of FC Dallas.

"For me, he's the best right-sided player in the MLS," Johnston said. "Everyone wanted his signature, from L.A. all the way through, Colorado. You name it, they all wanted him.

"We put our hand in our pocket and we delivered. And I'm thrilled to have him. ... The fans are going to love him in Toronto."

Johnston continues to look for the right overseas talent. "My phone's not stopped," he said gleefully.

Toronto will also add players at the MLS SuperDraft in January. Johnston's team can't start practising until Feb. 1.

"There's still a lot of work to be done, there's still a lot of trades to be done," Johnston said. "And there's a lot of shifting through certain guys who are overseas and getting some foreigners in."

Johnston sees Braz, Pozniak and Reda as key components in a Canadian backline that will have the luxury of knowing each other.

"I want five or six of them, so as we don't need to do too much work in pre-season," Johnston said.

Reda noted he played with Brennan when they were both 14 or 15, and spent time with Pozniak as members of the Toronto Lynx.

"It's almost like coming full circle, and now it's just bigger and better," said the defender.

Braz, Brennan, Pozniak and Reda also have national team experience together.

Pozniak and Reda are leaving Norwegian teams to come home. While Pozniak said money was not an issue, Reda acknowledged he was taking a bit of a hit.

"It's costing me a little bit, to be honest," said Reda, who comes from nearby Woodbridge. "But playing in front of family and friends is priceless to me."

Toronto FC kicks off next spring at BMO Field, currently under construction near the downtown waterfront.

O'Brien, a high-energy midfielder who has spent five years in MLS, puts the league on par with England's Football Championship, one level below the Premier League.

"The better teams in the league (MLS) would do really well and be in the top half of that table. And as far as putting an all-star team together, I think the all-star team would be able to run in the Premiership.

"I'm not saying it would win the Premiership, I'm saying it would hold its own. There's a lot of good players in this league, the standard's getting better, the young players coming into the league are getting better.

"And when teams like Toronto keep building stadiums, it just adds money to the league. It helps it grow."

O'Brien's resume includes time in the Middlesbrough and Juventus organizations as a teenager.

The former MLS all-star has ties to Toronto through his Irish wife, who has an aunt and uncle here.

Braz, 25, has been with the Montreal Impact most of his career but spent 2003 with Sweden's Vasteras SK.

Pozniak, 25, joined Norway's Haugesund FK in 2004 from Sweden's Orebro.

Reda, 29, spent last season with Sogndal of Norway after playing for Danish side Aalborg in 2005.

Braz and Pozniak both played in Canada's most recent game, a 1-0 loss in Hungary. It was the 10th cap for Braz and 17th for Pozniak.

Reda was not called up for the Hungary contest but played the two previous games against Jamaica. He has six caps.

Notes: Toronto FC has closed applications for its open tryouts next month. The club offered tryouts to 1,000 people at $115 a shot. People from as far away as Hungary expressed interest, a club spokesman said.

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