Toronto FC 2013 Top 36 Countdown: Number 21 - Kyle Bekker

Martin Bazyl photography

Impressive combine, Canadian Xavi, high draft pick, capped for Canada, then it all went a bit downhill really. At 21, it's Kyle Bekker.

Average Ranking: 21.53
Highest Ranking: 12
Lowest Ranking: 28

Dave: 21. Now we come to the other half of Toronto FC's highly rated draft day activities. In the days that followed the 2013 SuperDraft there was nothing but praise for what TFC managed to pull off by coming away with a pair of Canadians who impressed in the combine and several chunks of allocation money. Most sites that produce draft grades were giving TFC something in the B range for a solid performance.

If the allocation money was the star of TFC's draft performance than Kyle Bekker was supposed to be the most important tangible asset. On the day of the draft I was kind to Bekker describing him as such:

He would probably be best used as a link player between the defensive players and the attackers. He is capable of picking out his teammates all over the field but also can dribble out of danger when he needs to.

Bekker also brings with him the ability to hit an impressive dead ball. He showed that skill several times with Boston College and then reminded everyone at the combine that he can do it just about as well as anyone. It is a skill that has been lacking in TFC recently so if he can improve the dead ball skills of the team it would be a very nice bonus.

The knock on Bekker is that he lacks a bit of size and could be out-muscled in the middle of the park if he does not improve his strength. His technical skills are at the level that you want them though so if he learns to adjust to the playing style of MLS that knock should be easily put to rest.

In hindsight that evaluation was fairly optimistic on my part but the fact was that the few times I did see him play for both Canada's Under-23 team and Boston College he did look to be an impressive talent. On top of that he put in a very good effort at the combine and had a lot of people talking about him and not just those connected to Canadian clubs.

There were some knocks on Bekker coming into the season though. It was not just his lack of strength on the ball but also the fact that he seemed to be lacking a real natural position. At Boston College he played as a central attacking midfielder and out on the wings which worked for him against college opposition. With Canada's U23 team he was used in a much deeper role against stronger CONCACAF opposition. He seemed to adjust well to that deeper midfield road as it simplified his game and led some to believe that it would be his best position in MLS.

Toronto seemed set on using Bekker in a more advanced role though and that is where he showed up during the preseason. It was a role where he did alright for himself in preseason in a limited sample and the optimism about the rookie carried over into the 2013 MLS season. The fact that he'd looked fairly impressive for Canada in friendlies against Denmark and the US just added to the expectation.

When the season started things went off the tracks though. Some new faces arrived in the likes of Hogan Ephraim and John Bostock. Bekker still managed to go 90 minutes in the opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps but had very little impact on the game, though this early pass to set up a chance for Earnshaw is a good example of the quick thinking and incisive passing we though we might be getting. After that he dropped down to the bench and made substitute appearances in the next two matches including a 30 minute run against the Montreal Impact.

Then Bekker seemed to be pushed down the depth chart. Jeremy Hall and Matias Laba made the defensive midfield spots their own. Bostock and Ephraim locked down the wings, Silva was in the middle of the park, and Jonathan Osorio was filling in on a regular basis. It left no room for Bekker anywhere on the field as even Darel Russell jumped over him on the depth chart.

It was not until the middle of July that Bekker would make another MLS appearance as he came off the bench against Chivas USA. Then it was back to the bench until September when Ryan Nelsen finally started to give him the odd minute or two as a substitute. Bekker finished the MLS season with 9 appearances and a total of 335 minutes played scoring 0 goals and picking up 0 assists.

Bekker added two appearances in the Voyageurs Cup but was taken off in the second half of both matches. He did manage to get 118 minutes of action in that competition but his busiest time came with the Canadian National Team.

Leading up to Canada's November friendlies Bekker had logged 9 appearances for his country in 2013. His total of 634 minutes for Canada easily surpassed the amount of playing time that he got with Toronto this year. Not a lot of players can say that they logged more minutes for their country than their club in a given year but when talking about Canada and TFC anything really is possible.

It was an odd year for Bekker in 2013 but there are some reasons to be optimistic about his future. He showed some signs of adapting to the MLS game in his final few appearances of the season and when he has been able to play a simpler more withdrawn game he was been more effective.

Bekker could yet make a decent MLS midfielder and prove to be a solid contributor for Canada but 2013 was certainly a year of struggles for him. A lack of playing time will not have done his development any favours and it will be interesting to see where he fits into TFC's plans moving forward.

Duncan: 28. Exhibit A for MLS needing a better reserve league, or TFC needing to get themselves a USL affiliate where they can get good young players with potential some much needed game time. Got a lot of hype at the pre draft combine, but it still seemed a bit surprising to see him go at number 3 though the subsequent Emery Welshman pick suggested the 'local boy' thing was definitely a consideration that helped him.

Looked good playing for Canada in the friendlies against Denmark and the US, where I could see what they hype was about. His passes were generally simple, but not in the safe momentum killing kind of way, possession for the sake of possession. There was a purpose and attacking thrust to them, probing the opposition, pulling them out of position as a way to create holes in the defensive formation to attack. If surrounded with the right players, I could see him as the orchestrator, the string puller that makes it all happen, the 'Canadian Xavi' if you will. He did alright in pre season too, but then the real games started and playing against pros, trying 100%, in a match that means something, as opposed to the more languid pace of a friendly, well it seemed like it all moved just a bit too fast for him.

He couldn't make the adjustment right away and he worked his way to the bench and then out of the squad very quickly, only making the occasional appearance in Voyageurs Cup games or against Roma where he rattled the bar with a vicious shot. He did get some appearances in towards the end of the season, but still didn't really look like this year had really been one of development for him. How could it be with so little playing time? Hopefully TFC can find some way to get him regular playing time, probably via loan to a lower league. He's got the skills, if he can get exposed to the higher pace and find a way to adapt his game then he can hopefully come back and put those skills to good use with TFC and Canada. If I were to put money on an outcome it would be that he can't do that, I hope I'm wrong.

Armen: 23. Bekker should be lower on this list, probably, but I can't find myself able to rank him behind guys like Califf or Elmer.

James: 25. Wish he was higher, but the lack of minutes doomed what appeared to be a promising rookie season - if only from the last few matches has shown to be developing well.

Kristin: 23. The curious case of Kyle Bekker - THE pick of the draft, highly touted and paraded about as the future but bust once he stepped on the pitch. While yes, the kid needs minutes (please loan him out next season), Bekker rarely looked comfortable in MLS games. Always a step slow, one too many touches on the ball and showing a great deal of hesistancy in front of the net. Even his free and corner kicks looked bad for most of the season. Hopefully it's a case of just needing minutes and easing his development along.

a_miller16: The local boy failed to live up to his billing, and Nelsen was actually right about him not being ready to start in MLS.

Angus Chung: The maitre d'oeuvre of Kevin Payne's vaunted 2013 draft class. Whatever the reason is, he seems to just get no respect from Nelsen and co. I would not be surprised to see him gone next year though it is probably in everyone's best interest to give him a bit more time

Ignirtoq: #undertalentedOrDogHoused

JD: Hard to comment with so few minutes. Think he really needs to spend some time on loan somewhere in the off season (or next year) to really have a chance of developing.

Josh Mote: Saw a couple of decent moments in him, and he looked good with Osorio in the final game. Would like to see more of him next year.

Michaelvee: For the better part of the season I felt like we'd bet on a dead horse with Bekker. More minutes for Canada's national team than for TFC. But, he has proven in the past that he can get it done in the middle of the park. He holds the ball better than anyone else on TFC and if he gets more opportunities, he could have a breakout year next year.

Prizby: Got a boost in the rankings after his two starts in which he teamed up well with Oso in the centre of the park; it was his 'coming out party' if one were to term it. I think I saw on twitter someone suggest Bekker might be the 'Canadian Pirlo', which, I think we all can say probably won't happen, but it isn't a stretch to imagine the possibilities

Robert Snider: I wanted him to do well - I think he's just not playing enough & in a situation not the best for him. Loan him or let him play somewhere he'll get some actual coaching.

Schtevetown: What a strange draft that was. If the Montreal game was any indication, he may yet become an MLS starter. Time will tell.

Shel soccer Don: 3rd overall pick? We clearly need some better talent evaluators in the organization

The Yorkies: Really needs to look more urgent. Fear that this is as good as he gets.

Tim: Finally got some playing time and did OK. Just not OK for a top pick. Gotta work hard in the offseason to up the speed of his game.

Yohan: One of players I'm curious to see how he will do in 2014. Has the technical tools, but mentally, he needs to be able to make better decisions while under pressure. He can make a pass, but most players can when not under pressure. Game seemed to go by him too fast most of the times right now. Need confidence building at lower level, which hopefully he gets this winter.

Number 20: Reggie Lambe

Number 22: Justin Braun

Full Top 36 Countdown

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