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Toronto FC exposes keeper Clint Irwin to expansion draft


The dust has hardly settled on Toronto FC’s MLS Cup final loss to the Seattle Sounders, but decisions for 2017 are already being made.

The Reds announced the 11 players they would protect for Tuesday’s expansion draft, when new franchises in Minnesota and Atlanta select five players each from a pool of 259 players. Toronto can not lose more than one player.

Among the players left exposed are goalkeeper Clint Irwin, defender Steven Beitashour and midfielder Will Johnson, off-season pickups a year ago who were key to honing a winning culture at the once-maligned club.

“When you bring these guys in and you see how they act in practice, they never want to lose,” midfielder Jonathan Osorio said last week. “The other guys see that and it’s just contagious. [A winning mentality] starts from them coming in and everyone else just learning that and breathing that in, day in, and day out.”

Defender Drew Moor, another key acquisition last year, believes a successful off-season is about more than bringing in talent.

“You look at myself, Will Johnson, Steven Beitashour; there are some MLS Cups in there, there are some Supporters Shields in there. People that understand the grinds of [Major League Soccer], people that understand what it takes to win,” he said.

“That’s not saying we’re personally all great players. That’s saying we’ve been through it before and we understand the culture and we’ve been in a locker room that’s been successful.”

Other players available Tuesday include goalkeeper Quillan Roberts; defenders Mark Bloom, Clement Simonin and Josh Williams; midfielders Benoit Cheyrou and Daniel Lovitz; and forwards Mo Babouli and Tosaint Ricketts.

The rest of the 27 players on Toronto’s roster this year were either shielded by TFC or automatically protected as homegrown or developing players.

The most likely candidates for selection are Bloom and Williams. Both defenders offer experience, are paid reasonable salaries and neither would cost either Minnesota or Atlanta an international spot. Irwin, arguably the biggest name on the 259-person list, is also a contender given his reputation as a young, reliable shot stopper.

The Reds were also busy with paperwork Monday, exercising the contract options of keepers Irwin, Bloom and Alex Bono; defenders Moor, Nick Hagglund and Eriq Zavaleta; midfielders Jonathan Osorio, Armando Cooper, Jay Chapman and Tsubasa Endoh; and forwards Ricketts, Babouli and Jordan Hamilton.

Toronto did not pick up the options on Simonin, Lovitz, Cheyrou and midfielder Chris Mannella, while the contracts of Williams, Roberts, Johnson and defender Ashtone Morgan are up this month.

Designated players Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore are under contract through 2017, as are midfielder Marky Delgado and defenders Beitashour and Justin Morrow.

While most of Toronto’s core will return next season, Moor expressed his wish on Saturday to be greeted by all the same faces in six weeks.

“I hope none of these guys leave. I hope they all stay here. Obviously things happen in the off-season but we’ll rest and recover and come back stronger next season.”

TORONTO STAR | SPORTS