An American player might be making a big move abroad in the very near future. According to Voetbal Nieuws, Belgian power Club Brugge – along with a few other unnamed First Division A clubs – is looking at Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono to take over the starting job.
Club Brugge shows interest in Alex Bono, a 24-year-old goalkeeper from Toronto FC. We learned that from sources close to the club.
Bono joined Toronto FC when he was selected 6th overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft after spending three seasons with Syracuse University. The 6’3” keeper spent significant time in USL with Toronto FC II, but solidified his place as a top prospect with a standout 2017; he led The Reds to a historic treble with 10 shutouts in 28 MLS starts.
Bono’s been called up to a few camps, but has yet to make any appearances with the senior national team. According to TransferMarkt, his contract is up at the end of the MLS season in December, so one could see why he is an attractive transfer target to a team in need of reliable goalkeeping.
And, oh boy, does Club Brugge desperately fit that description. This season, the goalkeeping position has been an unending game of musical chairs, except nobody wants to be seated when the music stops… and also they’re playing on the Titanic.
American Ethan Horvath made 16 combined league and continental championship appearances, but lost his hold on the starting spot and hasn’t played since October. The 22-year old only recently began being included in the match day squad.
Ludovic Butelle, the club’s former starter who was replaced by Horvath, made several appearances at the end of 2017, but the 35-year old joined French club SCO Angers in the winter transfer winter.
Kenneth Vermeet joined Brugge in January on loan from Feyernoord, took hold of the starting spot, and then suffered a torn tendon.
Guillaume Hubert made sporadic league and cup appearances this season, but failed to take control of the job and is currently out with a hip injury.
Brugge is currently backstopped by Russian Vladimir Gabulov, who joined the club in January on a one-and-a-half year contract, but the club reportedly isn’t interested in his services after this season.
Voetbal Nieuws reports that Horvath, Gabulov, and Vermeer will exit the club this summer, opening up quite an attractive landing spot for a player like Bono. Despite its goalkeeping issues, Brugge has had a stellar season and is currently in first place in the Championship play-offs, two points ahead of Anderlecht (to whom they did lose on Sunday, 2-1). If the club holds its current position over the next three weeks, it’s guaranteed a spot in the 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League group stage.
This is, of course, merely one report and there are a lot of moving pieces. Toronto FC (or MLS) may not be interested in selling Bono this summer or a more attractive option may come along for Brugge. If it does happen, then it would certainly continue his meteoric rise from college star to possible national team number one (which seems a little over-the-top considering he has yet to earn a cap, but… maybe not).
What does seem certain is that Horvath will be competing somewhere else next season. It’s a disappointing bump in the road for a player who for a brief time looked like the definitive answer at goalkeeper for the national team. Now, the twice-capped Colorado-native will have to find a new club, earn the starting spot, and hopefully hold onto it this time. The 2022 World Cup is figurative eons away, but competition for minutes at the national team level is a finite resource with competitors constantly emerging and strengthening. If Horvath is going to claim a position ahead of the Bonos and the Zack Steffens of the world, then he needs consistently playing time.