Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
Never the fastest or the flashiest, he was a surprisingly solid winger in his time at TFC. Unfortunately a rather large error in judgement and a change in management brought an early end to his career in Toronto. At number 16, it's Nick Soolsma
Average Ranking: 17.53
Highest Ranking: 9
Lowest Ranking: 24
Kristin: 14 He loves the nightlife - or so go the rumours
When I wrote that I wasn't expecting to do a larger piece on Nick Soolsma so instead of going for an actual assessment I went for funny. I suppose that's what I get for trying to be funny. Very few players (with perhaps the exception of Joao Plata) have seen their stock fall as quickly as Soolsma's did this past season. He finished off the 2011 season with a (to me and perhaps others) surprising run of form. Never the fastest player on the wings - OK he had a top speed of a fast stroll - but suddenly that stroll was allowing him to find just enough space to send in some nice crosses and baffle opposing defenders with his patented awkward turn. By the end of the season I was a solid Soolsma fan and looked forward to seeing him in 2012.
Fast forward to the beginning of the 2012 season and the CCL return leg in LA (he was suspended for the home leg) where he and RJ put on a show, with both registering an assist and a goal. But it was Soolsma's deft touch on RJ's cross that won the game and sent our Reds into the CCL quarterfinals. Do watch his delightfully awkward post game interview, not surprising he didn't get asked to do too many of these
While TFC began their quest for the MLS futility record, Soolsma often looked like one of the brighter players on the pitch, even though he would only start in three games and actually feature in nine. Soolsma credited his improved play to a commitment to fitness in the off-season - imagine that, a player taking responsibility for his own fitness! - that stroll had turned into a solid trot. Never flashy and without a goal in MLS play for 2012, he did record a couple of assists, and was nonetheless a solid presence on the right and showed well in cup play.
And then it all started to unravel. First he suffered that hamstring injury after the game in Montreal over Easter weekend - an injury that would see him miss almost an entire month before returning to action ironically enough against Montreal in the home leg of their Voyageurs Cup round. After that he was only used sporadically in games; often coming on as a substitute for Joao Plata - a mistake by Winter to my mind but that's another story. His return to form culminated in a wonderful moment on May 26th - TFC's first MLS win of the season. Again brought on as a late sub, he beat the philly defender twice, first with brawn then with brains and got the ball to Danny Koevermans who scored the only goal on that day that finally got our Reds a win.
A great send off for the international break - supporters were happy, players were happy but then Coach Aron Winter was fired and when the team returned to action three weeks later Soolsma was an unused substitute in Kansas City. Then came that now infamous trip to Houston. You all know the story and that incident certainly spelled the beginning of the end for Suarez's owner (Nick should have asked if he could borrow some of his nine lives) at TFC. Rarely used by Coach Mariner after Houston - not being one of Mariner's players and also amid rumours that the Houston arrest was just the visible tip of the iceberg to his apparent hard partying ways - Soolsma and TFC agreed to part ways by mutual consent.
Where is he now? He's currently plying his trade in the Netherlands playing for SBV Excelsior. A somewhat muted end to what could have been a solid, if unspectacular MLS career - somewhere Suarez is shredding the drapes in displeasure.
Duncan: 20 At the last two townhall meetings, Paul Mariner described both Reggie Lambe and Joao Plata as 1 in 6ers, meaning they're inconsistent and can only be trusted to show up every 6 games or so. You know which winger's not a 1 in 6er? Nick bloody Soolsma. The antithesis of the flashy tricky winger who'll occasionally get you out of your seat with their sick moves but usually frustrate, Soolsma's own special brand of slow, slow, medium, slow, medium wingplay would more often than not get him space to get a decent cross in. That's hardly the stuff of highlights though, so instead go to 4:45 of this video to watch as he totally befuddles 2 Santos Laguna defenders before, in proper tricky winger fashion, wasting the chance by shooting into the side netting.
Anyway, Those 2 league assists mentioned above came in a mere 324 minutes, a rate of 18 in a full 34 games season, not too shabby. Add his goal and assist against L.A, a frankly scrumptious assist against Santos Laguna (check out the 3rd angle starting at 0:31) and another assist, competent rather than spectacular against Vancouver in the Voyageurs cup and what do you have? A productive, consistent winger.
His off field antics, apparently more than merely the Club Escobar shenanigans, meant the end of his time here, I'll miss the cat jokes, and I still miss, seriously, the player. How did I only put him at 20?
Dave: 16 His season will be remembered more for his off field arrest than it will be for anything he did on the field. He found himself being used as second choice to Lambe and struggling to make any impact before being released and returning home to the Netherlands.
Michael: 13 Sigh. One of the better crossers we had, released for nothing
John: 22 Was key in the CCL win over LA, and then dropped off, and released.
The Yorkies: Never has one man done so much for feline puns. Would have suffered in Texan prison.
The Ghost Of TFC Future: I was a big supporter of Soolsma. Kind of looked like Ivan Drago's little brother who had no interest in hitting the gym. Slow as hell, but always seemed to beat his man and get a cross in. I suspect he was out of Mariner's plans before "the Houston incident". When I first heard that one of the "Houston Three" tried to run when confronted by the police, I really, really hoped it was him.
Casual Soccer Fan: An effective winger (the anti-Javier Martina).
DichioTFC: Soolsma definitely had some talent as an attacking winger, making threatening runs and making the occasional deadly cross. His main issue, however, was his involvement in Aceval's and Silva's public intoxication arrest that made North American headlines. In a different world, Soolsma could have been TFC's difference maker, but, unfortunately, like much of TFC's 2012 season, it just wasn't meant to be.
Prizby: Too much partying ended up being Soolsma’s downfall, but how could anyone forget the game winning goal he scored at Los Angeles in leg two of the CCL quarter-final. Soolsma was well adapted to Winter’s system and saw his minutes and his TFC career quickly diminish as the second member of the Jailgate trio.
Sir Alphonso Applegate: I never saw a slower player get around defenders so consistently. Apparently he's not as good as Wiedeman though
Ignirtoq: For the talent that replaced him, he was let go too early. Sure he liked to party, but his career would be short lived. I want to see good football, and if that means keeping this kid on the books for another season, then so be it. Most improved until he was released. EXCELSIOR!!!
JC_Plante: One night in Houston was his undoing, but the talent was there. See: LA
Panos Kelamis: Another useful squad player, that never played enough to merit consideration, however he was the slowest soccer player I had ever seen.