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Toronto FC 2011 Top 40 Countdown: Number 9 - Ashtone Morgan

No fans, no other players.  Yeah, sure you played for Canada Ashtone, sure you did.  <a href="" target="new">Photo Courtesy Tim Milne</a>
No fans, no other players. Yeah, sure you played for Canada Ashtone, sure you did. Photo Courtesy Tim Milne

We're up to number 9, and the Toronto FC Top 40 Countdown gets its first player who received a vote for number one overall. He only played for roughly half the season, but may well be the most important player TFC have ever had. At number 9 it's Ashtone Morgan.

Average Ranking: 10.091
Highest ranking: 1
Lowest Ranking: 18

Duncan: 16. I feel a bit bad now looking at my ranking of 16. I wanted to try and be fair and base it on just his play for TFC this season, and I think I overcompensated, trying to not let myself be swayed by all the contextual stuff that made his season a special one. Which isn't really fair is it? Oh well, the rest of you had the sense to rate him higher and give him the overall rating he deserves.

After getting one start in the CCL game against Arabe Unido in 2010, it wasn't really a surprise that Morgan was one of the academy players officially signed to the first team, but it took him a while to establish himself as Mikael Yourassowsky, Danleigh Borman and even Dan Gargan all saw time at Left Back ahead of him in the first half of the season.

None of those players really established themselves though and slowly Morgan took over the left back spot. For a while when we first switched to the 3-4-3, Borman was again preferred to Morgan as the wing back, but eventually Morgan took that over as well, and played almost all the games to finish the season, including making appearances in all 8 of the CCL games. His linking up with Joao Plata was impressive, overlapping to provide the more traditional left wing 'get to the goal line and put a cross in' threat whenever Big Joao cut inside, which was always.

It still wasn't enough for the announcer at the Colorado home game to get his name right, announcing him in the starting lineup as Anton Morgan, but it was a good solid end to the season. Next year he should finish higher but 16th is about right for the impact he had on the pitch this year.

But it shouldn't really be strictly about his on field play with TFC, it's perfectly valid to rate him higher based on what he means to the club, and the future of the game in the Toronto area. I feel a lot of the younger players, and Canadians got a bit of an emotional bump in the rankings, and Morgan certainly benefited from both of those factors, but if anyone really deserves that bump, it's Morgan.

He earned a call up to the Canada squad and got his first cap and first start for his country. In and of itself, without any larger implications at all, a huge and well deserved achievement for him, but more than that it's a great moment for everyone involved with the TFC academy. I and many others have long argued that TFC's academy (along with Montreal and Vancouver as well obviously) will eventually have a great impact on the Canada team. It won't be right away, probably not in time for 2014, and probably not even 2018, but from 2022 onwards I think Canada will be regularly qualifying for the World Cup due to the new opportunities to develop and keep young talent within Canada provided by these academies.

The investment TFC are making in the academy setup at Downsview is a very good thing, but what it needed that they couldn't buy and that Morgan provided is momentum, a figurehead, an early success story for kids currently in the academy and younger kids hoping to make it there to emulate. It could have been Matt Stinson, or Doneil Henry, but based on his play this year, it was Morgan who was the first to break through to the national side and provide that example. It could be argued, and was eloquently argued here, that this makes him the most important player TFC have ever had.

That's maybe a bit much, but he should definitely be given the starting job at Left Back next year and the chance to make the position his own. He's still got plenty of room to develop, and should only go higher in the ratings going forward, at the very least you'd hope stadium announcers will get his name right from here on in.

Dave: 5. Ashtone was probably the most pleasant surprise of this season. He was the first academy grad to break in to the first team and then make a starting position his own. He was also the first one to earn a cap for the Canadian Mens National Team which is something that TFC will certainly be proud of. He still has a lot of room for improvement in his defending but he proved to be an exciting player when he did get the chance to go forward. He can make runs, whip in crosses, and even put in a dangerous shot from time to time. If he continues to improve like this he will certainly be a special player for Toronto going forward.

Keaton: 8.Represents the bright future of Canada soccer. Down to earth guy, great left back, challenging for starting role. What a year for Morgan. Don't be a Gabe Gala now.

Blindfolded Tank Driver: Ashtone is the most dynamic LB we have, and so far he appears to be developing well.

Devon Taylor: A bright young Canadian defender, who has had a breakout year. Hopefully he stays with TFC for years to come and becomes a mainstay in our back line.

Canadian Texan: Like this kid.

The Yorkies: The outstanding Academy product by far

JC_Plante: The revelation of the year, he and Stinson are making the early academy proud and we can look forward to more in the future

James: Most impressive academy grad, attacking excellent, defense needs improvement - left his man on that Chivas goal. Left back for club & country for years to come.

Alex: A revelation, what more can be said?

Peter Meraw: Proof that TFC academy is not just for show. Will be great to watch as he gains confidence and experience.

James deCosta: Great cross, lots of upside especially as he is young and a left boot

Number 10: Eric Avila
Number 8: Ryan Johnson

Full Top 40 so far