It may only be a few days into his first professional training camp but Emery Welshman is already looking right at home with Toronto FC. The club picked him up with the 16th overall selection in this year's MLS SuperDraft and he is eager to prove that they were right to place their faith in him.
The forward from Oregon State could not be happier to have the chance to start his professional playing career in his home town even though it was not something that he was expecting. "Its a dream come true," said Welshman. "I wasn't expecting to come back home to Toronto but I am ecstatic how things worked out. I get to live at home, get home cooked meals from my mom. Everything is just working out perfectly."
Being back home and spending time with his family has helped to make his transition just that much easier. While many of his new teammates find themselves staying in a hotel downtown away from their stuff and their families Welshman gets to go home after practice to his mom's home cooking.
Living on his own would not have been new for Welshman who had to learn to cook and clean for himself when he went off to college. Like most college students, he left home for Siena having never had to really look after himself before but quickly adjusted to what it takes to to live on his own.
He doesn't have to do that now though as he is back home. He is also coming to a Toronto club that has a lot of familiar faces around the dressing room which is helping to smooth the transition even more so.
The most familiar of the bunch is Kyle Bekker who spent several years playing for the same academy, as Welshman while the pair was growing up in the GTA. Their chemistry was on full display at the combine as the duo teamed up on several goals and both turned heads with outstanding performances on all three match days. Now Bekker, the club's third overall draft pick, is off with the Canadian National team but Welshman is glad to be playing at the same club as his old teammate.
"It is great," said Welshman. "I feel like it is great for Canadian soccer and it is great for our club team, Sigma FC. We put a lot of work in during our collegiate years and we are glad that it has paid off and we are glad that we're together at the next level." Bekker put in his hard work for four years at Boston College where he was a star midfielder but for Welshman the path was not quite so straight forward.
Welshman took a long road to go from Sigma FC to MLS but he made it happen by working hard and finding success wherever he went along the way. He turned heads at Siena College thanks to an impressive scoring record but even that would not have been enough to catch the eyes of scouts at the professional level. It is one thing to excel at the mid-major level but it was Welshman's move to a top flight program in the Pac-12 that really helped to raise his stock. He worked hard at Oregon State and made an immediate impact for the school being named All Pac-12 First Team in his first season.
Bekker is not the only familiar face in the dressing room for Welshman though who is familiar with the young players who have made the jump for TFC's academy to the first team. He met most of them while playing at the provincial level or from having played against them at the club level. The fact that he has known Ashtone Morgan for years and is good friends with him, has known Doneil Henry for a few years now, met Matt Stinson while playing at the provincial level, and even knows Quillan Roberts a bit is a huge plus for Welshman. He can look around the dressing room and fit right in with all the other young guys and that has allowed him to hit the ground running.
Hard work is what got Welshman to this level and he plans on continuing that hard work to ensure he can make an impact for TFC and reward the faith that they showed in him by taking him in the first round. He is not sure what position he will end up playing at this level having been used in a central attacking role during his college years.
"Today I was playing right wing so I am still going to have to get accustomed to that position," said Welshman when asked about the role the coaches might have in mind for him. "Hopefully I get an opportunity up top and I am sure that if I do I will show them that I can be the guy that they need going forward."
Whatever position he ends up playing the only thing Welshman is concerned with is doing his best to help the team win games and get better. "If they need me out wide I will still do the job that they need there too." He just wants to play.
His new coach, Ryan Nelsen, offered up some high praise for Welshman and Bekker when discussing the club's decision to select a pair of Canadians on draft day. "First and foremost its that they are good players and not just Canadian. That is the number one thing," said Nelsen, "we made it a target that we wanted them on our team rather than playing against them."
Nelsen, who was with QPR during the SuperDraft, did not have a lot to do with the actual selections as the draft day operations were left in the hands of the man he described as being the Yoda of the draft, Kevin Payne. He was very happy with the club's performance in Indianapolis though. "We had our eye on these two players for a long time and I have watched them many times and we all like them. It was just when to get them. In the end what they did to get the allocation money and the two players I thought was a fantastic job."
The coach seems happy to have Welshman here and there is no doubt that the player is happy to get the chance to play in front of his home town fans. The hard work is just beginning for both but the attitude is in place to make them successful.