Toronto FC declines Pablo Piatti option, begins search for new designated player

Barring a new agreement, Toronto FC is parting ways with designated player Pablo Piatti.

The MLS club says it is not exercising the option on the Argentine midfielder who joined Toronto in February from Spain’s Espanyol. He was on a one-year contract plus an option.

GM Ali Curtis said while TFC will talk to Piatti and his representative about returning next season, the club wants to bring in a new designated player.

“The year did not end how we wanted it to, but I am very proud of what the team accomplished under unique and difficult circumstances,” Curtis said in a statement detailing Toronto’s end-of-season moves.

“We’ll be able to return a core part of the group, including some young, exciting and hungry homegrown players, but also, we’ll look to make some important decisions that add to the quality of the team. In a lot of ways, the [salary] cap next year will be less than it was this year, so we’ll have to be creative.”

The 31-year-old Piatti, who will be eligible for the MLS re-entry draft, had four goals and four assists in 17 league games.

Defenders Laurent Ciman, Justin Morrow and Eriq Zavaleta will be out of contract at the end of the year. The loan deal for defender Tony Gallacher also expires at the end of the year.

Curtis said the club will talk to Morrow and its other free agents about returning.

WATCH | TFC’s season ends early with loss to Nashville:

Daniel Rios scored in the 108th minute as Nashville SC upset Toronto FC 1-0 in round one of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. 1:40

Impact extend top scorer 

Romell Quioto feels like he’s finally found happiness with the Montreal Impact, so when the opportunity came to cement his future with the club, the star forward jumped on it.

Quioto signed a two-year extension with the Major League Soccer club on Monday. The deal also includes an option for 2023.

“Montreal is very special to [me] because [I] came here after a difficult year, professionally speaking and personally speaking as well, and the club opened the doors for [me]. And [I’m] eternally grateful for that,” the 29-year-old Honduran forward said through a translator on Monday.

“For [me], the priority is to be happy and for [me] that happiness is here in Montreal and with the Impact.”

Quioto joined Montreal in a trade with the Houston Dynamo late last year.

He was limited to just eight starts and 794 minutes in the 2019 season.

A move to Montreal seems to have reinvigorated Quioto. He led the Impact in scoring, registering eight goals and six assists in 19 appearances.

The Impact finished the regular season with a 8-13-2 record, good for ninth in the East. The club made the playoffs, thanks to a late Quioto goal that sealed a 3-2 win over D.C. United on Nov. 8.

It was the first time since 2016 that Montreal had played in the post-season.

Quioto also scored in the Impact’s 2-1 loss the New England Revolution in the opening round of the playoffs.

It was important for the dynamic forward to stay with the Impact, said the club’s sporting director, Olivier Renard.

“All year long he has proved his value on the pitch through his performances, but also with his winning and leader mentality,” Renard said in a release. “That’s the fruit of his labour, now it’s up to him to continue that work in order to achieve the club’s goals in the years to come.”

CONCACAF Champions League play up next

Quioto feels it was a successful year, both for himself individually and the club as a whole.

“[I] feel good with what [I] gave to the club this season, but [I] feel [I] can give even more,” he said. “[I’m] going to work to be able to give everything [I] can to the Montreal Impact, [I’m] here to work and [I’m] already looking forward to the next opportunity to do so.”

Quioto’s next chance to contribute on the field will come on Dec. 15 when Montreal faces his former team, Honduran club Olimpia, in CONCACAF Champions League play.

One Impact player who won’t be available for the game is forward Maximiliano Urruti.

The club announced Monday that the 29-year-old Argentine international has undergone surgery to repair an injured meniscus in his right knee and will be out for six to eight weeks.

Urruti appeared in 15 games for Montreal this year, tallying five goals and two assists in his second season with the team.

Whitecaps exercise all options

The Vancouver Whitecaps are keeping much of their roster in tact next season, but are still working to secure the services of two veterans long term.

The ‘Caps announced Monday that the club has picked up options on seven young players, including forward Theo Bair, midfielders Michael Baldisimo and Patrick Metcalfe, centre back Derek Cornelius, right back Jake Nerwinski, and goalkeepers Isaac Boehmer and Thomas Hasal.

“We see for all of those players next steps and development in the future that makes us believe that they can be an important part of our MLS team, maybe not at the starting point of next season but in the long term,” sporting director Axel Schuster said on a video call Monday.

The ‘Caps opted not to pick up an option for veteran midfielder Andy Rose.

Schuster said both Rose and the club agreed the contract that the option would trigger wasn’t the best fit.

“We are now in an ongoing process to find a better deal or better construction of a contract for him in our club. But there’s no question that we would like to keep him,” Schuster said, noting that Rose has been key helping to develop the club’s young talent.

Discussions also continue with forward Fredy Montero, whose contract runs out at the end of December.

Schuster said he was in contact with Montero’s agent on Monday morning.

“I can tell you that our first idea of a new contract was not exactly the idea Fredy and his agent had. So that’s part of negotiations,” Schuster said. “Everyone is a little bit fighting for his position. But I can tell you that the communication is very open.”

Whitecaps staff are also working with David Milinkovic to try and find the winger a new team. If they can’t find the 26-year-old French winger a new home, he will remain with the club, Schuster said.

“He’s showed that he can help this team,” he said. “If it ends in another way, this is nothing that concerns us or would be a bad scenario for us.”

Milinkovic had a goal and four assists in 16 appearances for the Whitecaps last season.

Vancouver has opted not to exercise its option on academy product Georges Mukumbilwa, and ‘keeper Bryan Meredith has not been offered a new contract.

The Whitecaps finished the season with a 9-14-0 record, missing the playoffs for the third year in a row.

Schuster said he’s happy that the club isn’t overhauling the roster this off-season.

“We are confident with this squad that we are able to make next steps,” he said, adding that the ‘Caps are still looking to bring in a few key pieces.

“For this quality that we want to add, you are never alone in the market and it costs always a little bit more.”

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