Toronto FC 2013 Top 36 Countdown: Number 9 - Richard Eckersley

Can an ordinary fullback fly? Didn't think so! - Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite what he thinks, he is very much 'some ordinary fullback'. Sadly he's not paid like one. Injuries and contract issues meant he only got 16 games, just when it looked like TFC might finally have a system he could look good in. At number 9, it's Richard Eckersley.

Average Ranking: 10.79
Highest Ranking: 3
Lowest Ranking: 25

Duncan: 11. I wasn't all that impressed with Richard Eckersley in 2012, and after a few paragraphs kind of shitting on him, I ended my portion of his profile last year with the following statement:

Hopefully at some point during his stay here TFC will become that competent club that can cover for the mistakes of, and utilise the benefits of an enthusiastic attacking right back with more balls than brains.

At the start of 2013, it looked like that was happening, TFC's style of play in the first few games of the season really suited Eckersley. His energy and enthusiasm were ideal for the pro active pressing style that Nelsen started the season with. It worked very well against Vancouver in the season opener, his harrying of the midfielders and Califf and Dunfield's cleaning up behind him totally negated the Whitecaps attack and Kekuta Manneh in particular, forcing them to reshuffle at half time and focus on the left side instead. It worked even better in the second game, the pressure he and others applied playing a big part in Sporting Kansas City coughing the ball up for Earnshaw's first.

Even when shifted to left back, his strengths could be seen, watch this video against Montreal, 6 seconds in you'll see him pop into the screen at the bottom left, well behind the play, who's the guy that makes it all the way back? That's right.

I was quite happy about this, I wanted to like Eckersley, after that Montreal game I wrote a gushing Sportsnet article, basically a full length version of what you've read her so far. Sadly it soon went wrong as that enthusiasm and energy saw him injure himself celebrating Darel Russell's goal against Dallas, and so he missed a large chunk of the season, during which we all got to watch Ryan Richter instead. Fun. To his credit that whole allowing late goals craze happened mainly while he was out injured.

He eventually came back in July, for two of TFC's worst performances of the year, a 3-0 loss in Kansas and the 1-0 defeat to Chivas, and by then, that high pressing game with a 4-5-1 formation had been abandoned for a very familiar and undynamic 4-4-2, and so we never really got to see the best of Eckersley and how he could contribute to the defence again.

Sadly we never got to see Eckersley celebrate a goal of his own, which I think would have been a lot of fun, I'm genuinely sad he didn't score. He probably came closest in one of his better attacking games, against new York where he had 3 decent efforts, as seen here, here and here. In the next game, though I've often railed against his 'heroic and brave' style of defending, it did work out against New England with this goalline clearance.

For the rest of the year he was unremarkable really, though he really didn't look good during the late collapse against Portland, though to balance it out, he did have one of TFC's better attempts on goal of the night.

His last game came against Chicago, after which as he detailed in his end of season interview, he went to see Nelsen to figure out his status for next season, presumably that interview was when he picked up the 'injury' that kept him out of the next game and from then on he was looking on from the sidelines. A good decision really that allowed Bloom the chance to show he could do the job.

All in all he played 16 games this season and despite the attack seemingly being the best part of his game here's some stats that don't exactly cover him in glory. 0 assists (meaning he ends his TFC career with 2 assists to go with his 0 goals) 6 successful crosses, to 28 unsuccessful. As a comparison, Mark Bloom, 6 successful (in 6 games) and 4 unsuccessful, with an assist, Ryan Richter, 7 successful and 35 unsuccessful, again with an assist.

Add a lack of production to some haphazard defending and, though he can look good in the right system, he's nowhere near worth the salary he commanded, and seems like a prime candidate for a buyout if he can't be traded somewhere before next season. There's no way I can see him back here on the money his contract calls for.

Usually derisive nicknames or tags are made up by disgruntled fans, ie Try Harder, Brauninho or Me Ro. Pual Mariner launched a thousand 'modern era' jokes on an unsuspecting Andrew Wiedeman, but it's very rare for a player to actually provide the material themselves. Of course Eckersley did, in what might be my favourite moment of his season, he came out with the following quote.

"Fullbacks in this league don't get paid a lot of money. But I'm not some ordinary fullback,"

Brilliant.

Sadly, that's exactly what he is, an ordinary MLS fullback, with strengths and weaknesses. If he was paid a commensurate amount I'd be happy to keep him here, especially as if he stayed, he'd be willing to get permanent residency so he wouldn't count as an international. As it is, well thanks for the undoubted effort, I hope you end up with a team that suits you better.

Dave: 9. We could very well have seen the last of the ginger in TFC's back four which has more to do with his salary number rather than his play on the field. He put in another solid season before being forced to ride the bench down the stretch. Probably only an average defender on his best days though so hopefully Toronto can replace him with someone who would be an actual upgrade and not just money savings.

Armen: 13. Did what he could while carrying a massive contract on his back and ultimately couldn't justify the price tag.

James: 9. A workhorse, gave his all for the team, admittedly too expensive for a FB, but as a leader undervalued - sad to see him go.

Kristin: 6 OK, this is partly because of personal bias (I was a rightback way back in the day) and honestly Ecks was a difference maker early in the season where the team looked markedly improved overall when he came back from injury. Still feisty but less likely to get called for the red than in the past it looked like he might turn a corner this season. Also, gamely stepped in on the left when the backline shuffle due to injury and player departure occured. But more injuries, the arrival of the serviceable Mark Bloom and a very hefty salary mean we've seen the last of the Ginja Ninja in TFC red.

a_miller16: One of the longest serving players on the active roster. Always played with tons of heart. Was injured a bit too often and also had a huge contract. Will not be back next year but will be remembered for his heart and hustle and ability to get stuck in

Angus Chung: Yeah, he probably is just another ordinary fullback. While he brings decent, even good, play from the right (and at times centre) back position, his ridiculous salary does not justify the sometimes dreadful plays he makes, whether it's getting caught too upfield or sticking his foot in a bit too much. He seems to be a great guy and handled the TFC circus alright, but I think we can do without paying our RB hundreds of thousands of dollars.

David kent: Making too much,loved his hustle,positioning a question(worth 100,00)

Ferantez Too expensive. And based on my initial observation, Bloom is just as good or better

Henry for PM: Wish we could keep him, tough and technical.

JD: Love his work rate and energy, even if it is a bit sloppy at times. Definitely a bit nervous about next year when he's gone - Bloom cannot fill his shoes.

Killinghurst: Despite the fact that he's not coming back, he never once took a play off and gave his all for the Reds. Almost scored a goal (albeit on a deflection) too.

Mark_HSV: One of my favourites, and to be honest one of the few players with a football brain. Really annoyed that TFC froze him out because of his salary. Should have been a mainstay on this team.

Michaelvee: The big red machine lost out to Mark Bloom toward the end of the season due to his salary, and to Richter due to injury before that. But, he was his consistent, aggressive, fan favourite self while he was out there. Sad to see him go. (Though that salary is appalling)

Mweezy: Fell victim to the MLSE curse, paying a lot of money for something so it looks like you care about your investment.

Prizby: Probably a tad harsh of a ranking (10), but he's massively overpaid for his position for this league; sucks because he has great recovery speed/skill and is able to fix his mistakes many times, but alas, I think this is the last we have seen of him; my fondest memory will be his play causing the RSL crowd in 2012 to boo him everytime he touched the ball; always hard into the tackle and loved that about him.

Robert Snider: Really like him but just way too expensive - the conclusion we've all come to by now.

Schtevetown: His outsized contract (by MLS terms) overshadowed his onfield play this year. Treated very shabbily at the end of the season.

Shel soccer Don: I love him but hate that contract. Injuries this year also didn’t help. Thanks for the memories

Spence Snell: Same old Eckersley - a liability positionally, overpriced.

The Yorkies: No ordinary fullback - this one is orange - but too ordinary for that price.

Yohan: Average MLS fullback on crazy DP level wage. Improved with making less reckless runs, and not getting caught out of position as much. Still can't put in a good cross consistently. Will miss his hard nosed tackles and fiery ginger temper.

Number 8: Bobby Convey

Number 10: Ashtone Morgan

Full Top 36 Countdown

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