When CF Montréal announced their end-of-season roster decisions on Friday, they confirmed that seven players will not be returning to the club. One notable departure is Canadian international right wing-back Zachary Brault-Guillard.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old defender’s contract was not exercised by the club from Québec, making him available for many MLS teams to sign. Toronto FC should be in the list of interested parties.
The Reds’ disastrous 2023 campaign was tough to watch from top to bottom, and the squad lacked significant depth in their defence. Richie Laryea’s loan expired in July and by the time he signed for the Vancouver Whitecaps on loan, youngster Kobe Franklin had become TFC’s starting right-back. Franklin had a breakout season for the club after making his debut in late 2022, and his consistent performances turned him into a fan favourite. Thankfully, he remained mostly healthy, making 27 appearances and starting 23 of those matches.
If Toronto FC want to become a competitive team again, they need cover in every position in the event that a starter suffers an injury. Franklin is still relatively inexperienced in terms of MLS play and needs someone pushing him week in, week out if he wants to maintain that starter spot.
Brault-Guillard is an energetic player who enjoys getting forward as much as possible to create and contribute attacking chances — something Toronto heavily lacked. The 2022 season was his best offensive year as he scored four goals and added three assists in only 619 minutes as he served as backup to Alistair Johnston. Early on in that season, CFM signed him to a contract extension to the end of 2023 with options for 2024 and 2025.
ZBG’s adaptability to play in different formations is an asset and his pace is a threat in both attacking and defending situations. One glowing comparison can be made between Laryea’s skillset and his — they both love a cut-back cross towards the top of the box. TFC faithful got so used to seeing that type of play develop on the right flank that it became a staple in their toolbox of tactics.
Another reason why Toronto’s front office should consider signing Brault-Guillard is the financials. His guaranteed salary in 2023 was only $319,375, just over $1 million less than Laryea is currently making with Vancouver. Franklin made just under $80,000 last year. Since Bill Manning and Co. are still paying millions and millions for the two Italian Designated Players, ways must be found to cut costs in other areas of the pitch.
The Reds have had fullbacks battling for starting spots in previous years: think Laryea and Auro Jr. in 2019, Ashtone Morgan and Justin Morrow in the mid-2010s. Why can’t they do it again? They need to. Plus, Brault-Guillard is still young with lots of upside, and adding another Canadian to the roster wouldn’t hurt.