Toronto shore up porous defense with Caicedo, Eckersley

TORONTO – Toronto FC allowed 59 goals last season and had a goal differential of minus 23. Both were the worst in the league.

That made one of their offseason priorities obvious: Shore up the back line.

The Reds did just that on Thursday.

TFC announced the signing of center back Geovanny Caicedo, an Ecuadorian international who played with LDU Quito last year. They also brought right back Richard Eckersley into the fold on a permanent basis after he’d proven to be a stalwart last season while on loan from English club Burnley.

“Richard, in our opinion, was one of the best right backs in the league,” director of player development Paul Mariner said on Thursday at the club’s media day. “And I think he’s going to be one of the best right backs in the league for quite some time, [since] he’s only 22.”

Caicedo, 30, is listed at 6-foot-2, 184 pounds, and has eight caps for Ecuador. He attracted Toronto’s attention when he played for Ecuador in a friendly at BMO Field last June, a 2-2 tie with Canada.

“He has good skills, he has got a lot of experience and is a strong player,” head coach and technical director Aron Winter said on Thursday. “We thought he would be a good fit for our club.”

Winter said the Reds are working on signing another center back from South America but wouldn’t identify him.

Caicedo said through Luis Silva, the club’s first pick in the MLS SuperDraft who translated for him at the press conference, that he is familiar with the league from watching games on television.

He described himself, as a “very technical player” who likes to move up for corner kicks and set pieces to try to score.

Cann and Williams on the mend

Winter said Caicedo will be a contender for a starting role, especially with the uncertainty about when Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams will be ready for regular duty. Cann is closest to returning and might be available for the first game of the year, a CONCACAF quarterfinal match against the LA Galaxy on March 7 at Rogers Centre.

“We’re going to do everything to get those guys game-ready, but I think they need more time,” Winter said.

They are both with Toronto as the team opened preseason training this week.