Paging Kyle Bekker – where are you?
Toronto FC has had many new faces join the club this year, one of whom was Canadian midfielder Kyle Bekker. Drafted third overall by Toronto FC and a local kid no less, Bekker joined Toronto during a time of change, and became the talking point of the offseason. However, as the season winds down, Bekker’s name has faded from the headlines and while national team caps brought up the hype surrounding him, he hasn’t graced the field lately for Toronto FC.
So, Mr. Nelsen, where is Kyle Bekker? The young Canadian midfielder hasn’t had a whiff of the starting line up since he started against the Vancouver Whitecaps all the way back in March, in the first game of the season. During that game, Bekker played for the full 90 minutes and had three shots on goal. He then played the next two games coming off the bench, recording three minutes against Kansas City at the Rogers Centre, and then another 30 minutes against Montreal a week later.
Though he did get a couple of starts vs Montreal in the Voyageurs Cup, where he didn't exactly cover himself in glory, but then who did, it took another four months before Bekker saw the field in league play again, when he came on for 22 minutes against Chivas USA. His prospects of starting haven’t improved, and with players like Alvaro Rey, Robert Earnshaw and Maximiliano Urruti on the bench, Nelsen hasn’t really had a chance to use him as a consistent substitute either, though he did get in on the action in the friendly against AS Roma
Yet, in his short time playing, Bekker has shown flashes of brilliance. His passing is pretty accurate, and his chance creation is worth noting, with one really good chance at a goal denied by the smack of the crossbar.
There isn’t a lot of numerical evidence to support Bekker’s case, simply because he hasn’t had a lot of playing time for the club, with only 145 MLS minutes to his name. It’s a shame, too, because in his limited time playing with the team, Bekker has produced a bit more than some of his teammates. He has notched five shots in four games played, a really good ratio when compared to other midfielders on the team. Take, for example, Hogan Ephraim and John Bostock, who both played more games than Bekker (11 and seven, respectively) but also managed to only take five shots during their tenure at the club.
While the numbers alone paint a pretty picture of the player, it remains a rough sketch due to a simple lack of game time. Bekker is being underused to a certain extent, and it’s even more apparent now that Terry Dunfield has departed the club and Matias Laba has broken his toe. The midfield role that went to Jeremy Hall and Jonathan Osorio against D.C. United proved ineffective, and while Darel Russell came on to help stabilize that midfield, the introduction of Bekker could have really helped TFC.
Osorio is most effective as an attacking midfielder, or as a winger. It is the position that he has scored the most goals from, been most productive in, and has performed at a higher quality in. He isn’t as efficient in the middle because opposition midfielders quickly surround him, whereas out wide, Osorio has a bit more space to manoeuvre around. The potential partnership of Hall and Bekker in the midfield and Osorio and Convey out wide could prove to be the most potent for Toronto since each player would play with a complementary style to one another.
If Bekker isn’t going to get minutes this season, that may mean one of two things for Toronto FC – the first is that he is being judged as a long-term project and is either not ready or doesn’t have the confidence of his coaches just yet. The other explanation could be that Bekker isn’t adjusting at the right pace and he’s being phased out for a potential cut at the end of the year, along with Emery Welshman, a la Matt Stinson and some of the other TFC Academy graduates.
The second option is, perhaps, a little far-fetched, but it’s not like there isn’t a precedent for cutting young Canadians at Toronto FC. The reality is that Stinson played much more consistently and amassed plenty of minutes and was still cut. Wouldn't give up on a high draft pick that quickly you say? Where's Luis Silva these days? The fact that Bekker isn’t playing could mean his time at Toronto FC could come to a similar end.
There is a third option that Toronto FC could be exploring – a loan to a USL or NASL side. It’s a system that MLS teams are currently developing, partnering with lower league teams for the betterment of player development. Bekker would be in a better position at a team in the lower division where he would be getting consistent minutes and time on the field, something he isn’t getting outside of reserve league matches and training ground scrimmages.
Bekker was brought to Toronto FC in a college year that continued the trend of being less important than the last. Only Andrew Farrell has managed to really consistently start for his club. While the draft class continues to weaken every year with the development of team academies, Bekker remains a project player who has the potential to be an important player for the club. Laba’s absence for the next four-to-six weeks must open the door for Bekker, and, let’s face it, this isn’t exactly a playoff year for Toronto FC anyway – let’s give Bekker a solid run of five or so games and see what he’s all about. If he can continue to create chances, take shots and show the way he did in his four appearances this year, Toronto may have another fan favourite on their hands.
Would it really hurt to give him a chance?