- Associated Press - Thursday, January 26, 2012

TORONTO (AP) - Toronto FC has signed defender Richard Eckersley, who had previously been on loan to the team from England’s Burnley.

The 22-year-old Eckersley joined Toronto last April and started in 22 of 23 matches.

Eckersley signed a four-year contract with Burnley in July 2009 and went on separate loan deals to Plymouth Argyle, Bradford City and Bury before coming to Canada.

Toronto FC coach Aron Winter says signing Eckersley was a “high off-season priority” and calls him “an important player for our club.”

He began his youth career at Manchester United and made two appearances with the senior side. He was also part of Manchester United’s League Cup-winning side against Tottenham in March 2009.