How Carlos Salcedo can help steady Toronto FC's defense

Italian star Lorenzo Insigne is certainly Toronto FC's flashiest offseason acquisition, but the arrival of Mexican international defender Carlos Salcedo could prove equally consequential in the club's quest to reclaim Eastern Conference contender status in 2022.

Last season, Toronto had one of the leakiest defenses in MLS, with their 66 goals conceded the second-highest total in the league, trailing only FC Cincinnati's 74. But in Salcedo, signed Monday from Liga MX's Tigres UANL as a Designated Player through 2024 with a 2025 option, the Reds believe they've found an anchor to patch the holes.

Salcedo completed his first training session with his new teammates on Tuesday, with head coach Bob Bradley noting the 28-year-old's calming impact is already apparent.

"You see right away his presence on the field," Bradley said. "We talked about his ability to help us play from the back, he's a very good passer. And I think so far he's just done a great job of coming into a group, getting to know guys, being down to earth, being real. Young guys, veterans, different players, he's just made a point of reaching out to everyone in a really good way."

Salcedo's arrival marks his return to MLS, where he started his professional career as a homegrown player with Real Salt Lake in 2013. He's embarked upon a well-traveled career since then, moving to Liga MX with Chivas Guadalajara before stints in Europe with Fiorentina (Italy) and Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany). He then settled in with Tigres and has remained an El Tri regular, being capped 48 times.

Asked why he's now back in MLS, Salcedo cited his relationship with TFC president Bill Manning as one factor. It dates back a decade to when Manning was president of RSL.

"Obviously I've known Bill for more than 10 years, so when he talked to me about the project and the ambition of the club to restart again this year – as we know last season wasn't the best, but when he told me about all this, the city, the lifestyle, everything, it's something that helped us to make the decision," Salcedo said. "I know Toronto well because I've known in the past years they've done great stuff. For me, that's the main reason, to be on a team that wants to fight for every competition. So I'm here to help the team and do great things during this period."

Salcedo said he's embracing the fresh start, both for him as a player and the club as a whole. Despite last season's struggles, Toronto have been among MLS' dominant clubs in recent years, highlighted by a Supporters' Shield, Canadian Championship and MLS Cup treble in 2017.

"Now it's a whole different situation, it's a whole different year," Salcedo said. "So for us, if we want to win championships, every team starts from a good defense. I can talk for my teammates as well, all the defensive players, we have to do what we have to do: That is, try to get shutouts and obviously we have so much quality up top that sometimes that's all you need, one goal and play good football. But also try to get those shutouts. That's going to help everybody to get the win."

Salcedo can't fix everything by himself, something Bradley emphasized when asked about turning around last season's defensive form. But his presence should provide a steadying force, with his positional versatility only an added bonus.

"I think that's a very important reason that we felt he brings a lot: His experience, his versatility in defense," Bradley said. "He's played both as a right center back, left center back, he's played in a back three. So I think all those things come into play. But I continue to point out that I think when we look back on last year and try to grow, the defending situation has to be from front to back. There's got to be a better commitment from everyone, a better understanding of ideas, moving up together, controlling transition better.

"So there's a lot that goes into it, but I certainly think that Carlos is going be an important player for us and help some of those different things happen in the backline."