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Mo' Deals In Toronto: Esky for Cunningham
by Ridge Mahoney, May 23rd, 2007 7AM
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TAGS:  mls


Not all great goalscorers, or great players, think alike. Real Salt Lake has sent striker Jeff Cunningham to Toronto in exchange for Alecko Eskandarian and TFC's first-round 2008 SuperDraft pick. Despite scoring 94 goals in his MLS career, Cunningham has bounced among several clubs, and his quirky personality doesn't mesh well with that of Coach Jason Kreis, who has not wavered from the no-nonsense approach that enabled him to set a league record - since tied by Jaime Moreno - of 108 goals. Let's just say Kreis didn't ask to wear No. 108 on his jersey this season before deciding to retire and take over as head coach.

Cunningham's jersey number last year (76) and this season (90) refer to his goalscoring totals. (He's netted four this year).

Two years ago, during RSL's first season in MLS, Cunningham stormed out of an RSL practice session. Then-coach John Ellinger forgave him and welcomed him back, but that's not the type of player Kreis will tolerate now that he's a head coach. Cunningham launched into another tirade at a training session this season and his goalscoring antics - such as kissing a huge poster of himself after scoring in the opening game this year - are also contrary to Kreis' persona.

TFC coach Mo Johnston doesn't seem the type to brook such behavior, either, yet no team has made more moves in so short a time. Every player Johnston took in the expansion draft has left TFC, and even if he picked a few of them to trade them, that's still remarkable.

Johnston hasn't hesitated to beef up his front line. After using an allocation - reluctantly - to bring striker Conor Casey to MLS from Germany, Johnston traded him to Colorado. Danny Dichio came to MLS after being released in England. Johnston traded a partial allocation to D.C. United in late December to land Eskandarian in a trade, though a source says Eskandarian isn't the only MLS player to chafe at toiling in Toronto, despite a raucous fan base and impressive new stadium. He scored his first goal for TFC against his former team last weekend but D.C. rallied to win, 2-1.

In acquiring Cunningham, Johnston adds a speedy striker who can exploit counterattacking situations and play off the size and strength of Dichio. Perhaps Johnston hoped Edson Buddle could fill that role but Buddle's form has been atrocious and his stats aren't anything near those of Cunningham.

And Johnston reportedly had agreed to a trade for Amado Guevara in early May that was only negated when the Honduran refused to play.

If Johnston was willing to take on that piece of work, talent notwithstanding, what's a consistent goalscorer with a few personality issues?

In recent weeks, Johnston has backed off from earlier assertions that TFC wouldn't use its DP slot this season. The release of Canadian attacker Tomasz Radzinski from Fulham has set alight rumors he's bound for MLS.

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