Pacific FC announced on Monday that the club has agreed to terms for the sale of defender Lukas MacNaughton to Toronto FC. The deal will see MacNaughton join the MLS side after three years in the Canadian Premier League. Meanwhile, as part of the agreement, Pacific have also acquired TFC centre-back Luke Singh on loan for the 2022 campaign. MacNaughton, a 26-year-old centre-back who was a crucial part of Pacific's CPL championship triumph in 2021, played 59 games in total over three years for Pacific, providing a rock-solid defensive presence and excellent ball-moving abilities. Despite playing with a rotating cast of partners, MacNaughton was consistently reliable for the Vancouver Island club. Born in New York and raised in Belgium, MacNaughton's Canadian footballing journey began in 2013 when he suited up for the University of Toronto in U SPORTS, playing five years for the Varsity Blues as well as summer stints with North Toronto Nitros and Alliance United in League1 Ontario. MacNaughton signed his first professional contract with Pacific in March 2019, shortly before the beginning of the inaugural CPL season, and he improved massively in each of his three years with the club to ultimately emerge as one of the league's best centre-backs in 2021. This coming season won't be MacNaughton's first taste of the MLS level; in the 2021 Canadian Championship, he helped Pacific beat the Vancouver Whitecaps before falling narrowly to Toronto FC at BMO Field in the semi-final. MacNaughton is now the second CPL player to earn an MLS move, following former Cavalry FC defender Joel Waterman, who signed for CF Montréal (then Montréal Impact) after the 2019 season.

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“For me it’s just so great to go back to the city and have everything come full circle,” MacNaughton told Pacific FC's official website. “Overall for the league I think it’s fantastic, there’s been Joel Waterman who went to Montreal and to be the second move is huge for me. My story is literally what I think this league is about: I played in university and when I finished nothing was really available until I came to the CPL and that opened doors to be where I am now.”

He added, reflecting on his time on Van Isle and the championship run: “Pacific gave me a chance so I’ll forever be grateful to them. I’ve already told the boys I’ll always be a supporter of Pacific no matter what... Ending off on a high is fantastic. That’s the way you want to end any kind of situation because the last memory is the most vivid, especially with this because it meant so much to the club, the players and the fans.”

MacNaughton was one of the CPL's most impressive defenders in 2021, leading Pacific with 2,610 minutes played. He led the league in successful passes and aerial duels won, demonstrating his ability to both win the ball and advance it intelligently.

It’s a great move and we have to celebrate it,” said Pacific FC CEO Rob Friend. “We signed Lukas from League1 Ontario three years ago, we’ve seen his growth. He’s done a tremendous job developing himself on and off the field. This is the next step and he’s ready for it.

“This is something we envisioned as a club and something we want to continue to do: develop players and move them onto a higher level. This is something we’re celebrating. We’re excited for him, we’re proud of him and as a club we’re very happy with the terms so I think it’s a win-win for all.”

MacNaughton has already joined TFC at their preseason training camp as they prepare to embark on their own 2022 campaign under new head coach Bob Bradley.

Pacific FC adds Luke Singh on loan

With MacNaughton heading out to Toronto, Pacific immediately brought in a new face to try and mitigate the defensive loss, with TFC centre-back Luke Singh joining the Tridents on loan for 2022. Singh, a 21-year-old native of Brampton, Ontario, broke into the TFC first team in 2021, making eight appearances for the club -- including two in the Concacaf Champions League against Mexican side Léon. He has been a part of Toronto's youth system since 2017, having played for the Reds at various reserve levels including both Toronto FC III in League1 Ontario and Toronto FC II in USL League One. He also spent a brief period in 2019 on loan with Danish club Brøndby, where he made 24 appearances between the reserve and U-19 teams. After representing Trinidad and Tobago at several youth levels, Singh accepted a call-up to the Canadian senior national team in June 2021 and participated in a camp, though he did not see any game action. He's still eligible to play for Trinidad at the international level. Singh is a solid athletic centre-back with good aerial ability, and he's comfortable on the ball with both feet. With MacNaughton out and Singh in, Pacific have four players officially confirmed for the 2022 roster, with captain Jamar Dixon, goalkeeper Callum Irving, and defender Thomas Meilleur-Giguère all returning. Head coach James Merriman -- who takes over from Pa-Modou Kah after the previous gaffer's departure -- has revealed that there are several additional announcements to come as he puts together a squad to try and defend the CPL championship.

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