All-Star credentials, versatility attract Revs to Toja

Former FC Dallas midfielder has proven himself in MLS

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Sitting at the top of the allocation order, the New England Revolution had a choice.

The Revs could either select returning Colombian midfielder Juan Toja and add the hard-working 27-year-old to their roster, or they could trade the spot and acquire value in return. While General Manager Michael Burns admits the Revolution did receive multiple offers in recent days, the club ultimately decided the best course of action was to select Toja and bring the two-time MLS All-Star into the fold.

“We knew when he signed with MLS that either we were going to get very good player in Juan, or we were going to get something else if we decided to move the pick, whether it was (draft) picks, allocation money and/or players,” said Burns. “We felt that this was an opportunity to make our team better and we feel like we’ve done that.

“With the roster freeze date on September 15, there’s not a lot of time left to make moves and for him to come through the process at this time with us holding the number one position, we feel fortunate. We’re certainly glad and looking forward to getting him in as quick as we can.”

Unlike many foreign players who join MLS rosters, Toja is a known commodity. He spent the 2007 season and the first half of the 2008 season with FC Dallas, making 43 regular-season appearances while registering eight goals and three assists.

Although he’s spent the past four years playing in Europe with Romanian club Steaua Bucuresti and Greek side Aris Thessaloniki – racking up UEFA Champions League and Europa League experience in the process – Toja’s already accustomed to life in the United States and MLS.

“The fact that he’s not only played in this league, but has had success in this league is very important for us,” said Burns. “We had him in Boston last week to meet with him and get him medical examinations and everything was positive, everything was encouraging. He’s excited to come back to MLS and he’s excited to come to New England.”

During that meeting, the Revs discussed with Toja his preferred position on the field. In the past, the naturally left-footed player has featured in a variety of positions, including centrally as an attacking midfielder, deeper centrally and on the left wing.

In speaking with the Revolution, Toja indicated he feels comfortable in all of those positions, and that versatility was another reason the Revs found him so appealing.

“That will only help us and make us stronger all over the field,” said Burns. “It gives (head coach) Jay (Heaps) some more options in terms of not only where to play [Juan], but where to play other players, as well. It’s not always easy to find good players and it’s not always easy to find versatile players. We feel like we’ve gotten both with Juan.”

Toja won’t officially be added to the Revolution’s roster until he receives both his International Transfer Certificate and U.S. P-1 Visa, but Burns noted that both processes are underway. While Toja likely won’t make his Revolution debut until at least Sept. 5 against the Columbus Crew – and more likely Sept. 15 against D.C. United – the Revs are optimistic that the paperwork process will be completed as swiftly as possible.

“The fact that he’s been here before and has gone through all of this before to come play in MLS will hopefully help expedite the process,” said Burns.