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  • Toronto FC's roster starts filling out... with kids


    Two days before the season opener is as good a time as any to make a rash of player signings, right? But unlike last year, I doubt we'll be learning of any league veterans lacing up their cleats in the cab ride to the game (as the well-worn, possibly apocryphal Dan Gargan anecdote goes). No, instead, the five players signed by Toronto FC in the past 48 hours are all youngsters ready to (hopefully) show they've got what it makes to earn minutes with the big team.


    Demitrius Omhproy, the club's first pick (second round, 26th overall) in this year's MLS SuperDraft, signed with the club on Wednesday. The 21-year-old is a good signing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that he's an outgoing, apparently likable guy who is no stranger to connecting with fans -- he's an active tweeter and, as a member of the California Golden Bears, helped put together this viral hit:

    Drafts are an inexact science, so the fact that he was available in the second round shouldn't lead us to assume he has a low ceiling (for instance, Robbie Findley went in the second round in 2007, and he's played in a World Cup; meanwhile, the TFC faithful remember who went fourth overall in 2009). But if nothing else, he seems like someone that Toronto fans will have no problem getting behind -- which is good, considering the hit that Dwayne DeRosario (the ostensible "face of the franchise") has taken to his image since late last season.

    As for the other four signings, the team announced on Thursday that a quartet of Academy products are ready to make the jump: Ashtone Morgan, Oscar Cordon, Matt Stinson and Keith Makubuya. Morgan is 20, while the rest are 18. They join defender Doneil Henry and midfielder Nicholas Lindsay (who'll miss the season with an injury, though he remains on the roster) as graduates of the Junior Reds.

    The cynic would say this is a last-ditch effort to fill out the roster before the season begins. But the optimist would contend that the Aron Winter administration is serious about using the Academy as a pipeline for senior talent (as it's supposed to be, of course)... and that's a great thing, for several reasons.

    It means a bunch of new Canadian kids now have MLS contracts (with untold numbers more seeing that there is a realistic shot for them to make a pro team right here at home). Plus, it reflects very well on Jason Bent. The former Canadian international player spent three years as coach of the TFC Academy before being promoted to assistant coach with the senior team this year. We're now seeing the fruits of his labour, and at the tender age of 33, Bent's future in coaching looks very, very bright.

    Morgan, Cordon and Stinson all got brief sniffs with the senior team last year, appearing in Voyageurs Cup/CONCACAF Champions League matches. But with the reinstatement of the MLS Reserve Division this year, these guys (plus Makubuya and Omphroy) will get plenty of time to further develop their talents in competitive game situations. Of course, if they're ready to be regular contributors to the senior team, hey, bonus!

    With these signings, the median age of TFC's active roster is 24 years old; the average age about 24.3.

    Like some of the other pro teams in Toronto, it appears the brain trust at TFC is on board with allowing fans to emotionally invest in a crop of youngsters that can mature and grow before their eyes, rather than patchwork Band-Aid solutions that don't do any favours to the long-term health of the club. That approach is wise, in my eyes, since after four years of utter futility, that bond between the team and the fans is seriously frayed in Toronto.

    Another year of Gargan-in-the-cab stories just wasn't going to cut it.


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