Toronto FC announced their acquisition of Italian full-back Raoul Petretta from Turkish Süper Lig side Kasımpaşa Spor Kulübü on January 24th 2023. For many fans of TFC, Petretta is an unknown figure. The hope is that he will slot into a squad already packed to the brim with talent in time for the MLS season which returns at the end of February.
But what can we expect from him?
The European Journey
Born to Italy parents in Rheinfelden, a south German town bordering Switzerland along the Rhine river and a mere 15 km from Basel, Petretta began playing in the FC Basel youth teams from the age of 6.
He was given his first team debut by current Union Berlin head coach Urs Fischer back in February 2017 and for the next 5 seasons in the Swiss Super League, he would be a regular starter for Basel as they would go on to win a league title and two Swiss cups.
However, in 2021, things started to change for Petretta at the club he had been a part of for 19 years. He believed the club had been disrespectful in their treatment of him towards the end of his contract, stating in an interview that “how they dealt with me in the last six months before the end of my contract was not possible” for such a devoted servant of the club. He opted for a switch to Turkey, and he joined Kasımpaşa in July 2022.
However, his time there was plagued by injury, limiting him to just 6 starts and this interrupted his ability to find consistency.
In January 2023, Toronto FC presented an opportunity for the 25-year-old to recapture his form in the MLS, which is becoming increasingly competitive year on year, becoming the 26th Italian player to sign for an MLS side in the history of the League.
Will Toronto be a Match for Him?
Toronto FC have a start-studded squad at their disposal, featuring the likes of Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernadeschi, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Sean Johnson and many other big names in the world of football.
The club saw an improvement in results after the arrivals of Insigne from Napoli and Bernadeschi from Juventus in January last season, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to secure a playoff spot.
This season looks likely to be different, adding new players like Petretta to the team. A full-back with an abundance of attacking ability (highlighted by his 10 goals and 12 assists during his time in Switzerland), he likes to get forward down the left flank and be involved in the final third.
At the age of just 25, he is in his prime and has plenty of European experience, playing in the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League. If he can link up with fellow Italian Insigne on the left flank of Toronto’s attack, there’s no limit to the damage they could inflict on MLS opposition this season.
This will also allow Richie Laryea to progress further up the field this season and give more width to Toronto’s play, something they struggled with last season with Italian veteran Domenico Criscito at left-back, a very intelligent and experienced defender, but not an overlapping full-back.
Laryea is still on loan at Toronto until June, so expect to see plenty of contributions from both Toronto fullbacks this season. Toronto struggled defensively last season, conceding 66 goals across the season (the third worst record in the division), so a player like Petretta will certainly bring more options for Bob Bradley as he looks to improve on this area of his team.
There should be plenty of optimism surrounding Toronto FC ahead of the upcoming MLS season, and if they can integrate their new signings like Petretra and develop their style of play, they’ve got a real chance of challenging the regular favourites for an MLS championship.
Petretta at FC Basel (Grant Hubbs)
Toronto FC Squad (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Ronan McGuinness is an aspiring sports writer and expert in all things European Football. Born in the UK and raised in Ireland, Ronan has spent his whole life involved in the sport, from playing to coaching to now travelling throughout Europe and writing about the game he loves more than anything else.