SPORTS

Oh la la la: French trio impress at Toronto FC's pre-season camp

02/12/2015 04:37 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Italian playmaker Sebastian Giovinco and American stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore may be the marquee names at Toronto FC this season but don't underestimate the MLS team's new French flair.

Veteran midfielder Benoit Cheyrou and defender Damien Perquis look to add style on and off the pitch. And head coach Greg Vanney, who played professionally in France, likes what he sees from rookie defender Clement Simonin, a first-round draft pick.

If nothing else, the MLS club will have some great accents. You have not lived until you have heard Cheyrou wrap his tongue around Orlando — "Or-lon-doe" does not do it justice.

Toronto is a "leeetle beet colder," the former Marseille star added charmingly.

All three French players speak good English, while needlessly apologizing for not having a good grasp of the language. Perquis, a French-born Polish international, can be excused when he admits he is still trying to figure out centre back partner Steven Caldwell's Scottish brogue.

"That's one guy I have some difficulty with," Perquis said with a laugh. "It's hard to understand him but it's OK. We will arrive together, to have a contact. So don't worry."

On the pitch, Cheyrou looks to be silky smooth with a deep array of moves and passes.

In practice this week, the 33-year-old Frenchman found himself hemmed in with only a sliver of space in front of him. Cheyrou rolled the ball over the top of his foot, effectively reducing the space he needed to get through the gap, and hit the accelerator.

The 30-year-old Perquis, who has played at the top level in France and Spain, is projected to be the defensive anchor Toronto missed last season when Caldwell went down with an injury.

The unknown among the three is Simonin, a left-footed centre back who has impressed coaches with his ability to read the game and distribute the ball.

The 23-year-old Simonin came up through the FC Lorient system before deciding to get an education while pursing his soccer dream in the U.S.

The only team that offered him a scholarship was Division 2 Lander University in Greenwood, S.C.

After two years, he transferred to North Carolina State. He fell through the cracks when he underwent sports hernia surgery early in his senior year but Toronto was impressed when they saw him at a Las Vegas combine late last year.

Simonin went ninth overall to Toronto FC, while fellow Wolfpack defender Conor Donovan went 22nd overall to Orlando City SC.

Now the young Frenchman finds himself sharing the pitch with Cheyrou and Perquis.

"I grew up watching Cheyrou all the time, every weekend. Perquis as well. So it's quite strange and surprising to be here on the same field with them," said Simonin.

"They know what they're doing," he added. "And you can tell. Whenever they touch the ball, it's something different."

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

MORE:cpSports