The nasty left back had another good year personally, proving a valuable attacking weapon with much improved crossing leading to plenty of goals. At number 6, it's Ashtone Morgan.
Average Ranking: 5.76
Highest Ranking: 1
Lowest Ranking: 10
Armen: If there is a player on the Toronto FC roster that the city can be proud of, it's Ashtone Morgan. The young leftback and TFC Academy graduate enjoyed a stellar season in 2012, establishing himself firmly in the starting lineup, and was consistent and reliable when called upon. He's a Torontonian through and through, and his passion for the team is undoubted.
Morgan played in 30 MLS games this season, starting in 27, and recorded over 2500 minutes of playing time in the regular season. He was also heavily involved in the Amway Canadian Championship and the CONCACAF Champions League, and was a constant on the team-sheet. His performances did not go unnoticed by the Canadian Men's National Team, and head coach Stephen Hart gave Morgan a handful of call-ups this year though he never made the pitch.
The 2012 season was a big year for Morgan, and though he had a few defensive slip-ups, his game still improved under Aron Winter and Paul Mariner. To be fair to Morgan, he is still young, but the alternatives at left back were limited to, well, Logan Emory, so his playing time may have come from a lack of options, but whether he was deserving of a starting role is without question. At only 21 years of age, he has plenty of football ahead of him.
Where Morgan excelled was in pushing forward. He was efficient in linking up with the left-winger or midfielder in each match, providing a trademark one-two pass with Johnson on more than one occasion. He recorded five assists, a testament to his contributions to the team. In particular, Morgan linked up well with Danny Koevermans (before a season-ending injury ruled him out of contention) and Ryan Johnson. Some of Morgan's finer contributions came against the likes of the Portland Timbers at BMO Field, and particularly against New England, where both of Morgan's assists led to goals, the game ending 2-2.
However, tracking back, Ashtone Morgan was 50-50. There were certain players whom Morgan figured out quickly and handled well for 90 minutes; there were others who Morgan could not mark. Whether he was beaten one-on-one, burned for pace or simply caught out of position, Morgan's defensive skills were sometimes lacking. How much of the blame lies with Morgan and how much with the undermanned and undertalented defence as a whole is debatable, but that does not excuse the young Canadian from bearing some of the responsibility.
It would be unfair to criticize Morgan too harshly for his defensive lapses, especially at his age, where he is still learning not only how to defend, but also adapting constantly to new and dangerous right-wingers in MLS. Still, Morgan was never terrible and that may be a testament to his raw talent. Many have called Morgan an athlete first, but that is a bit harsh; his first-touch, for example, is spot on, and his passing and crossing is accurate enough. He's certainly got the talent to be a starter for many years to come.
Say what you want about Morgan's game, but off the field, he is a character, a professional, with a good head on his shoulders. His ever-present smile and modest demeanor makes him a fan favourite. On a personal note, I can always rely on Morgan to be accommodating for a quote here, or an opinion there, even on the days where Toronto FC blew it, big time (which happened more than once in 2012). He is a professional through and through.
Ashtone Morgan's future at Toronto FC is, for now, pretty well assured. The likelihood of Morgan being traded is low, and, in a scenario where Morgan actually is traded, fan uproar would probably be at an all-time high. Recall the furor around Nana Attakora's departure and multiply it by 10. The only move that Morgan could make that would keep TFC management in supporter's good books would be a move to Europe, and though Morgan could probably find a club in the lower-leagues somewhere, a big European move is, perhaps, a few years away still.
If anyone has the potential to become a future team captain, it's Ashtone Morgan. He has become a symbol of the TFC Academy, and if he sticks around long enough, giving Morgan the band would be a welcome decision. But, like Paul Mariner has been preaching to the media, putting too much pressure on younger players is not ideal, and Morgan, like many TFC players, needs a bit more time to prove their potential.
If there's anyone on the team that can impress in the coming years, it's Ashtone Morgan. Prove me right!
Duncan: 7 It was another good year personally for Ashtone Morgan as he built on his success in 2011, signed a new contract, and cemented his place as TFC's left back of the present as well as the future. His value to the team was shown early when he wasn't released to the Canada under 23 squad, staying with TFC instead and after surprisingly missing the league opener against Seattle, replaced by Logan Emory, he was close to an ever present. Like many others, things never really got going for him under Aron Winter, his most notable moment was the part he played in sparking the brouhaha against Santos Laguna. First provoking Darwin Quintero into a red card, then miraculously jumping up from his rolling around when the melee got a little too close to him. Concacaf-tastic.
Paul Mariner's first game in charge saw him on the bench, Jeremy Hall favoured instead of him, but injuries elsewhere forced a reshuffle and Morgan was back at left back, and during that magical little stretch where TFC were good, he was a huge part of that. Freed up a little by the more defensive midfield, usually Julian de Guzman on the left with him, his overlapping runs, and ability to pick out Danny Koevermans or others with a cross were exemplary, and he contributed 4 assists during that 9 game run. Here they are. 1, 2, 3, 4. He probably didn't get an official assist for this one, but it may be his best, this time cutting back on to his right foot before getting the cross for the 2nd against Portland. Mariner also gave him a game on the left side of midfield, an experiment that didn't end well.
With that contract extension, and included as one of the 7 core players by Paul Mariner, Morgan will definitely be back next year. Defensively, there's still plenty of room for improvement, but a stable and improved backline can only help with that, we'll have one of those next year right?
Dave: 4 The young left back did not have the best season defensively and it is clear that he still has room to improve at that end of the field but he continues to show a lot of talent going forward. Despite his young age he spent most of the season in the starting XI and is probably the one defender who can take some pride in what they did this year
Michael: 6 Promising player
John: 5 Could have a future, has had chances and taken them.
Kristin: 9 Exactly what this team needs on the left. Not perfect, mistakes due to inexperience and lack of consistency in his on field partners. However, should be the starting LB next season - lots to come from him.
The Yorkies: We will watch with interest how TFC screws up his career.
The Ghost Of TFC Future: Continued his development. Put in some fantastic crosses for Danny K to knock in. Playing for a terrible team is surely better than riding the bench on a winner. Right? …right?
DichioTFC: The sky is the limit for my favourite Red. The self-professed 'Nasty Left Back' has been fantastic for the club throughout his tenure. 2012 was a disappointing season for many players, Morgan included, but his positioning, hustle and tackling were sights to behold. In a league starving for wide players, Ashtone will be a cornerstone for TFC's defence for the years to come having signed a long-term deal with the club along with Doneil Henry. Having him play with a consistent defensive line and a regular group of midfielders will only improve Morgan.
Shem: He's got that leftback spot locked and was one of the few with consistant performances. And he's Canadian!
Prizby: In his second, full season as a professional, Morgan became the steady left back. While his defensive game still has some work and improvements going forward, his offensive game, which some people criticized he was lacking, was a joy to watch. Ashtone finished tied for fourth among defenders in assists and will be looked to, to continue his output in the 2013 season.
Sir Alphonso Applegate: The only thing that TFC has done right in it's 6 year existence. Continues to get better, homegrown, CMNT member. Ashtone is the best evidence that TFC has some clue.
JC_Plante: Showed glimpses of what could be. His crossing is a top skill.
Panos Kelamis: Played more than he should have, but has developed into a starting fullback at the MLS level
David Kent: Good speed,great crosser. Needs two center backs to fulfill potential.