John Herdman has gone with a known and respected quantity in naming Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio captain of Toronto FC.

The 31-year-old Osorio, entering his 12th season with his hometown club, succeeds veteran midfielder Michael Bradley, who retired at the end of last season. Osorio leads the franchise with 341 appearances in all competitions.

With 71 Canada caps to his credit, Osorio is no stranger to the former national team coach.

"Jonathan's a very special person at this club," Herdman said Tuesday from Palm Beach, Fla., where TFC is holding the first half of its training camp. "You only have to see his connection with kitchen staff, the equipment people, down to the kids at the academy who look up to him as that player that went all the way for the club to a championship.

"He's waited patiently. He's built the experiences. And he's ready. I've worked with Jonathan for five years and I've watched him mature, build experiences like CONCACAF qualifying and World Cup. He's ready to take on this big responsibility. And he's excited for it."

Osorio, Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi, Richie Laryea and C.J. Sapong all wore the armband last season in Bradley's injury absence. Laryea and Sapong have since moved on.

Bradley became TFC's seventh captain in February 2015, taking over the armband from defender Steven Caldwell. Other skippers were Brazil's Maicos Santos, Germany's Torsten Frings, Ireland's Darren O'Dea and Canadians Dwayne De Rosario and Jim Brennan.

"I am incredibly honoured and excited to have been named the captain of the club that means so much to me," Osorio said in a club statement. "Wearing this armband comes with a great responsibility, and I am determined to represent the fans of this club and the people of this city in the best way."

With 62 goals in all competitions, Osorio ranks third in the club record book behind Sebastian Giovinco (83) and Jozy Altidore (79). He also has 35 assists.

Osorio, one of the club's three designated players along with Italian stars Insigne and Bernardeschi, has experienced highs and lows with Toronto.

He has won nine trophies in TFC colours: the MLS Cup (2017), three Eastern Conference Championships (2016, 2017, 2019), the Supporters’ Shield (2017) and four Canadian Championships (2016, 2017, 2018, 2020).

But the team has endured lean times of late, finishing at the bottom of the league standings last year at 4-20-10.

Toronto has missed out on the playoffs the last three seasons, compiling a dismal 19-56-27 record under Chris Armas, Javier Perez and Bob Bradley, Michael's father.

Herdman took over as coach on Oct. 1, with Terry Dunfield filling in as interim coach after Bob Bradley was fired on June 27. Dunfield remains with the team as an assistant coach.

Trinidad winger Tyrese Spicer, the first overall pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft, continues his return-to-play program in camp from a lower-body injury sustained at college "but nothing that we're concerned about," said Herdman.

Forward Adama Diomande, who saw just 166 minutes of action last season due to injury, is expected to join the team soon after continuing his rehabilitation in Toronto. Seventeen-year-old defender Lazar Stefanovic has spent time in camp.

"It's been an energetic first week," said Herdman, "The players have been feeling the intensity. They're a little bit sore."

"It's everything that we had hoped it would be," he added. "A fully committed group of men who are in good spirits and working very hard."

Newcomer Deybi Flores, a Honduran international midfielder, has already made his presence felt with his physicality, intensity and ability to press and cover ground quickly.

"He's sped things up in that midfield area," said Herdman.

The camp has involved a bowling session and card games among the team-building exercises.

"Just listening to the staff members, they haven't seen that in a while," said Herdman. "It's refreshing."

The roster remains a work in progress, with the club unable to land some "targets." 

"I think the process is slow. That goes without saying," said Herdman. "But at the same time it's about taking our time being diligent, making sure that the right people come in the door … We've just got to show some patience here."

After an intrasquad game last this week, TFC is slated to play the first of four pre-season friendlies on Feb. 2 against Nashville SC in West Palm Beach. The other games are scheduled for the second half of camp in Santa Barbara, Calif.

"We would like to be adding players coming into those games," said Herdman.

Once the team adds to its depth, Herdman said the club will "start thinking about what's next for the players who haven't earned the right to play for his club through the pre-season."

Toronto opens the regular season at FC Cincinnati on Feb. 25. The home opener is March 9 against Charlotte FC.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2024.