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Polish international defender Damien Perquis adds flair to Toronto FC backline

01/27/2015 07:00 EST | Updated 03/29/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Judging from first impressions, Toronto FC has added style and substance on defence in one fell swoop.

Newcomer Damien Perquis, a French-born Polish international, will likely partner with Scottish veteran Steven Caldwell in what could be a hard-nosed centre back pairing.

"He's a leader. He's aggressive," Toronto head coach Greg Vanney said of the former Real Betis defender. "He's a guy who doesn't give away a lot of space to attackers, he gets tight. He's challenging balls that are coming into forwards."

"He's sort of a no-nonsense fellow," Vanney added of Perquis. "He's a guy who's definitely going to have presence when there's time to have presence on the attackers. That's part of our strategy — we don't want to concede space this year, we want to take away space and look to get the ball back as soon as we can."

The 30-year-old Perquis has flair off the pitch as well. Resembling a younger version of French actor Tcheky Karyo ("The Missing") he met the media Monday looking like he had just walked off a Milan runway with am oversized scarf casually arranged around his neck.

On that score, he will blend well with the 34-year-old Caldwell, a fashion plate of his own off the field.

The six-foot-one 165-pound Perquis played for Troyes, Saint-Etienne and Sochaux in France before moving to Spain to sign with Real Betis ahead of the 2012-13 season.

Of Polish decent through his grandmother, Perquis has won 13 caps for the Polish national team.

He's happy to be wanted after falling off the radar with his Spanish club, which was dealing with relegation and financial issues.

"I don't play and it was very difficult for me there," the former Real Betis vice-captain said in English. "So I will enjoy my job and I will take pleasure doing what I love the most in my life. Now I'm here to help the club to get to the playoffs at the end of the season."

Perquis, who arrived in Toronto last Thursday, has not played since a Copa del Rey game in mid-December.

He got a heads-up on MLS from friends like French midfielder Vincent Nogueira of the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution forward Charlie Davis.

"He (Davis) said 'Bro, you must be here because the new football is here,'" recalled Perquis, who speaks French, English, Spanish and a little Polish. "So I said OK."

Seeing Toronto's well-appointed training centre sealed the deal.

Toronto was thin at centre back last season and the cupboard got a little more bare in the off-season when Doneil Henry joined West Ham United. That left Toronto with just Caldwell and Nick Hagglund, a rookie last season.

The addition of Perquis, Eriq Zavaleta (acquired from Seattle for a second-round draft pick) and draft choices Clement Simonin and Skylar Thomas gives Toronto the six centre backs it wants to stock its MLS and USL Pro rosters. Toronto FC II will make its debut in the USL Pro League this season.

For GM Tim Bezbatchenko, bringing Perquis on board represents one of Toronto's bigger off-season moves.

"I'm over-the-moon excited about having Damien on our roster," he said. "Because this league is hard and there's a lot of travel. People will get injured. You need leaders, people with experience and that's what Damien brings."

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