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Toronto FC adds to defence but questions remain about who will captain MLS team

Juventus' Sebastian Giovinco celebrates after scoring during the Serie A soccer match between Udinese and Juventus at the Friuli Stadium in Udine, Italy, Monday, April 14 2014. Toronto FC addressed the issue of defensive depth with two acquisitions Monday but other questions remained on Day 1 of training camp. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Paolo Giovannini
January 26, 2015 - 2:31 PM

TORONTO - Toronto FC addressed the issue of defensive depth with two acquisitions Monday but other questions remained on Day 1 of training camp.

Who will captain the MLS team? Will star signing Sebastian Giovinco come sooner than later? Where does Brazilian striker Gilberto's future lie? And what's going on with English forward Luke Moore?

Toronto unveiled Damien Perquis, signed from Spain's Real Betis, and Eriq Zavaleta, acquired via trade from Seattle, as the team had its first workout under the bubble on a grey, chilly day at the TFC training centre.

Those additions ticked one box, but camp opened with a large question-mark over the captain.

Veteran Scottish centre back Steven Caldwell is the incumbent. And while the proud Caldwell has worn his heart on his sleeve in leading the team, all signs recently have pointed to a change in leadership.

American star midfielder Michael Bradley, who wore the armband when Caldwell was injured or suspended last season, is clearly seen as the heart of the team.

Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, has made a point of talking up Bradley's role in helping land stars Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. Bradley, said Leiweke, was in the information loop all along.

Caldwell was asked Monday whether his input was sought.

"No I wasn't consulted," he answered.

The 34-year-old Scot said he would be disappointed to lose the captaincy.

"I love being captain of this football club," he said. "I've captained every team I've played for since I was 15 so it's something that I relish, I enjoy and I think I'm quite good at it. It's a great honour to be captain of any club. I don't treat it lightly. I love being captain of Toronto. So I hope to stay that."

Head coach Greg Vanney and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko sidestepped the issue.

"We haven't really crossed that bridge entirely yet," said Vanney. "We want to see all our faces (in camp) and sit down and give the proper respect to everybody in the group so that they understand how we're going to be moving forward.

Bradley, along with striker Jozy Altidore, is away with the U.S. national team until Feb. 9 so it will take a while for that sit-down. In the meantime, the issue of captain remains a topic of conversation.

Bezbatchenko deferred the issue of captain to his coach.

While Giovinco is scheduled to join Toronto in July after his contact with Juventus expires, there has been chatter the designated player could arrive sooner.

"He'll be coming as soon as we possibly can get him here," said Vanney.

Bezbatchenko was somewhat more cautious about an early Giovinco arrival.

"We have not spoken one word with Juventus about that," the GM said. "It's something we would entertain because if we can get a player of that quality for the entire season, that would help our roster. But he's a Juventus player, we haven't spoken to them yet and I'll guess we'll just see."

Which begs the question why not ask?

"As of right now he's a player for them ... they're in a position where they need top players," said Bezbatchenko, shedding no more light on the matter.

Gilberto, meanwhile, remains in Brazil while the team sorts out its designated player logjam. Only three are allowed and Toronto, with Altidore, Bradley, Gilberto and Giovinco, has four.

With no expectation of any immediate roster rule changes, Toronto has to shed a DP by March 1, which is roster compliance day.

"We're working through our options now with the league," Bezbatchenko said of Gilberto. "There could be a trade, it could be a loan or a transfer."

Moore, meanwhile, was absent Monday. Bezbatchenko said the club was finalizing a possible new deal that would have the English forward back in the fold in days.

Returning players were optimistic about the off-season player moves.

"It's never boring around here, but I think it just shows that this club is committed to winning," said fullback Justin Morrow. "That's what you want to be around as a player so I'm excited to be here and I'm excited to start the season."

Zavaleta, a former Seattle first-round pick and Vanney's nephew, cost Toronto a second-round draft choice.

Perquis is expected to partner Caldwell at centre back, with young backup options in Nick Hagglund, Zavaleta and draft choices Clement Simonin and Skylar Thomas.

The team will train the rest of the week indoors before flying Sunday to Orlando.

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