Toronto FC added experience up front Tuesday in veteran forward CJ Sapong, giving up defensive cover in centre back Lukas MacNaughton and up to US$200,000 in general allocation money to Nashville SC to get him.
TFC has been short up front with Adama Diomande sidelined by injury since the second game of the season. Coach Bob Bradley has rotated between Deandre Kerr, Jordan Perruzza and Ayo Akinola and, on the weekend, gave Italian star Lorenzo Insigne a more fluid, forward role,
The 34-year-old Sapong has 88 goals and 34 assists in 350 regular-season appearances with Nashville, Chicago, Philadelphia and Sporting Kansas City, which took him in the first round (10th overall) of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.
“CJ has a long track record of scoring goals in MLS," Bradley, who doubles as Toronto's sporting director, said in a statement. “His work rate, mentality, and ability to impose himself on opponents in front of the goal are some of the important qualities we look forward to seeing from him here at TFC.”
TFC gives up US$125,000 in 2024 general allocation money (GAM) and an additional $75,000 in conditional 2025 GAM if Sapong meets certain performance metrics.
Toronto then filled MacNaughton's hole on the roster by acquiring 24-year-old defender Aime Mabika from Inter Miami CF through 2023 with options for 2024 and 2025. In exchange, Toronto sent US$100,000 in 2024 general allocation money plus an additional US$100,000 in conditional GAM if performance-based metrics are met and a sell-on percentage for Mabika.
Mabika was originally selected by Miami in the first round (26th overall) of the 2021 MLS SuperDraft. He spent the 2021 season with Inter Miami CF II, formerly Fort Lauderdale CF, in USL League One. Mabika then signed a first-team deal with Miami in January, making 18 appearances across all competitions in his first season with the MLS club.
Toronto said the trades were agreed to prior to Monday's close of the primary transfer window.
Sapong made US$550,000 last season, according to the MLS Players Association. McNaughton earned US$86,100 and Mabika US$73,625.
The 28-year-old MacNaughton made 31 appearances across all competitions for TFC.
He joined Toronto ahead of the 2022 season from the CPL's Pacific FC. He has been a backup to Matt Hedges and Sigurd Rosted this season, but started the last two games in the absence of the injured Hedges.
MacNaughton spent three seasons with Pacific, where he made 59 combined appearances and won the CPL title in 2021.
His final game with Toronto wasn't a happy one.
He conceded an own goal in the 4-2 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday but didn't know much about it, with Rosted's attempted clearance striking his body and bouncing into goal. MacNaughton was substituted at halftime with Bradley saying later that the defender was dealing with a lower leg issue.
McNaughton is a worldly addition to the Nashville roster.
Born in New York City to a Canadian father and Austrian mother, MacNaughton moved to Belgium when he was seven. After playing soccer at the University of Toronto where he studied architecture, his soccer career took off in the CPL.
The six-foot-one 185-pounder speaks English, French and German, understands Dutch and can “get by” in Spanish. He holds Canadian, American and Belgium citizenship.
"I can’t thank you enough for the incredible memories and experiences that I’ve had while playing for this city," MacNaughton said in a social media farewell to Toronto. "To my teammates, you have become life-family to me and I’m grateful for every moment we’ve shared. To the fans, your unwavering support is truly special.
"Although my journey is taking me elsewhere, know that Toronto will always hold a special place in my heart. I am honoured to have been a part of this incredible community. Thank you again, Toronto. I’ll see you all soon."
MacNaughton, who made his Canadian debut in November against Bahrain, joins former TFC winger Jacob Shaffelburg at Nashville.
Toronto (1-2-6) hosts New York City FC (4-2-3) on Saturday.