Average Ranking: 13.66
Highest Ranking: 6
Lowest Ranking: 33
Duncan: 13. A 30 something player from England? That was specifically what Kevin Payne didn't want. So how did Darel Russell end up signing? Well, he's mates with Jimmy Brennan, that's how. As recounted in an interview with Neil Davidson:
He ran into Brennan during a Toronto pre-season game against Orlando City - Russell knew the Orlando club's owner and asked if he could train with them - and was invited to the TFC camp.
"Lucky for me," said Russell.
He thought it would last just two days, but it led to a contract.
He joined TFC's training camp in February and was officially signed up on March 1st, Kevin Payne saying: "We expect him to help at several positions for us this year."
The first position he was tried at was right back. Ryan Nelsen didn't like Morgan, so Eckersley went to the left and Russell was in on the right. That was first tried in the second half against Montreal, when TFC were chasing the game so it made sense that Russell was often quite far up the pitch rather than in a more traditional right back position. He started against L.A, again at right back, and this time it was really rather noticeable that he didn't seem all that keen on the defending part of the job. Of course, not as noticeable as his mistake that led to the injury time equaliser, heading the ball back into the box rather than out (though if you're being kind there was maybe a crucial nudge to knock him off balance).
Lovely, very much my vote for TFC goal of the season. But not really enough to convince anyone he was the answer at right back, though Richard Eckersley hurting himself celebrating that goal meant he got another start there against Philadelphia, only to get injured himself in that game, and thus began the Ryan Richter era.
When he came back from injury, he was very much on the bench, used occasionally and now exclusively in midfield, though he found himself well towards the bottom of the pecking order, for the longest time making only the odd sub appearance here and there. His biggest impact came when introduced against DC. TFC were very much still in the habit of conceding late goals and they actually had a lead to protect, Russell went out there as if instructed to make sure TFC didn't become meek and passive as the clock wound down, he was a one man wrecking ball. He picked up a booking here for a rough tackle that could easily have seen a red card, and that wasn't the challenge that left Daniel Woolard a bloody mess, his elbow took care of that later.
For most of the summer, Russell was barely seen, I was surprised he made it out of the summer window still with the team and thought he'd be a lock to be let go at the end of the year, but towards the end of the season as injuries or suspensions reared their head, he made his way back into the team, and, well he didn't look all that bad at all. He played well in Portland, twice coming close to opening the scoring, though his was a particularly lazy jog back for Portland's 4th. Then he scores two weeks in a row, both very nice goals, a well placed long shot against Kansas City and a lovely, if completely unpressured, chest down, spin and volley against DC. All of a sudden he was a double threat, violent red card waiting to happen hard man and a goal machine, all on top of looking like a competent midfielder out there.
Does this mean he should be back next year. I'd say it's very much a possibility. His salary, $110k, is maybe a bit much, but if only because stability helps, I think I'd say yes he should be kept on. If he can do what Hall and Wiedeman did last year, go through the re-entry draft first stage then get re-signed for a lower amount, I'd be more than happy to see him back as a back up midfielder. That's a lot more than I thought I'd be saying about him.
Dave: 10. He sure did score some nice goals for TFC this season and when he was not being used as a defender he was actually an okay player. His time in the back four was a complete disaster but he almost made up for that with his work as a DM. He may have scored the club's goal of the season so that is saying something.
James: 11. One of the top scorers despite limited minutes, a good role player, useful - can never have too many of them.
Kristin: 13. Rusty (or Red Card) Russell actually grew on me over the season; enough that I'd almost forgotten he was a friend of Jimmy B's that basically came to training camp on a lark. His start with TFC was marred by the coaching staff's insistence at putting him at RB - Rusty does not like to stay at home and play defense. But as a midfielder - once he stopped trying to drop flying tackles on everyone that is - we've had worse *cough Reggie Lambe cough*. And he can score some goals too (note: he's scored more than Justin Braun) which on TFC always counts for double. If he's back next year I'd be OK with that.
a_miller16: Somehow managed to score a few really nice, timely goals but his actual play was very sub-par.
Bruce Harding. Was disappointed when we signed him. If it wasn't for 3 lovely goals, he would be lower.
Elusivecart: Good value in reserve, scored more than most!
Ferantez I think his price tag is too big for what he brings to the table. Seems sluggish at times.
Henry for PM:
JD: Put in a few solid performances, but he is way too expensive for a depth level player.
Jon Spratt: Won me over a bit as the season went on. He's got his faults -- still not over that header back into the box against LA -- but think he's a good bench piece to have around.
Josh Mote: I feel he wasn't really given a fair shake by the supporters because of his 6 digit salary. While true, and maybe it's the Norwich fan in me, but I think his versatility made him mostly effective this season when called upon.
Killinghurst: Scored the nicest goal of the year and was an absolute bruiser. At some points he was as red card waiting to happen.
Mark_HSV: Seemed like a bruiser to me. Had 3 goals though! Expendable I think.
Michaelvee: Is Darel Russell a great player? No. No he is not. But, there is something to be said for scoring goals, and Russell did that where all others failed this year. If he's back for another year, I'd be surprised. But pleasantly so.
Prizby: Rusty gets this because when he scores, they are just cracking goals; thanks to an American wife, I believe, he doesn't even count as an international; I wonder if he'll be satisfied with a similar to less role next year; he seemed surprised in his post season interviews at how he got less playing time than he's used to.
Red Wine Roz:
Robert Snider: my pick for worst until they moved him from right back and I thought he played a bit better, so he moved off the bottom.
Schtevetown: We will have matured as a club when we don't have to sign workman-like pros like this.
Shel soccer Don: A solid MSL player but that salary overshadows his on field contributions.
The Yorkies: "The Cockney Crusher" became useful when he stopped relying only on his sharp elbows.
Tim: Underperformed and yet I'll never forget that one goal that was a true highlight
Tyler: I really don't like Russel, but he did bring a wild uncertainty to the pitch and he scored some brilliant goals somehow.
Yohan: Was thought to be a WTF, not another English lower league reject signing, Russell proved that he has a place with TFC. 3 goals, 2 of them some of the prettiest goals seen at BMO Field, in 18 apperances. Also delivers crunching tackles. Benefits from having a green card. One of those utility guys every MLS team needs. That volley in Apr vs Dallas has to be one of goals of the year candidates.