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Toronto FC 2013 Top 36 Countdown: Number 10 - Ashtone Morgan

His season started with nasty being anything but a compliment; then he was exiled to the bench and then some Swiss guy got signed and he turned his game around. Down 4 spots from last year, at Number 10 it's Ashtone Morgan.

Uh excuse me Clint? Yeah, I'm gonna need to take that ball. Don't make me get nasty.
Uh excuse me Clint? Yeah, I'm gonna need to take that ball. Don't make me get nasty.
Brad White

Average Ranking: 11.21
Highest Ranking: 6
Lowest Ranking: 21

Kristin: 11 Surprisingly high rating for someone that played so poorly for the early parts of the season. Looking like a shadow of the player we saw last season he was even more of a liability on defense (Montreal anyone?) but also seemed to have lost his ability to make those bombing runs down the left to send in those delicious crosses. Nasty left back indeed. But when Elmer was signed it seemed to have scared him or shaken him enough to regain some of his form. By the end of the season he had meshed well with the backline and was again linking up with the wings. Hoping this is the Morgan we see in March.

What a difference a year makes.  Last season Ashtone Morgan could do little wrong; although quite young and inexperienced, he was injected into the first team, constantly highlighted as a graduate of the TFC Academy (no pressure!) and future star of both TFC and the Canadian national team.  And he acquitted himself fairly well, ending the season with most thinking positive thoughts for the future. But as this is TFC, trying to keep positive thoughts is always an adventure. 2013 would be an adventure of sorts for Morgan.

For reasons unknown he looked uncomfortable in the early goings and instead of being able to overshadow or balance his defensive shortcomings with his offensive game, all we saw was Morgan getting beat down the left and not making runs.  Or when he did make a run the crosses he put in were not nearly to the quality that we'd come to expect and more often than not led to nothing but a turnover.

The wheels started to fall off during the away game to Montreal in March when he committed the foul (soft or not) on Andres Romero that led to a penalty (converted of course by Patrice Bernier) to give Montreal the lead.  It was a foolish foul and only highlighted what is often Morgan's most glaring defensive issue - getting back.  *about 2 mins in*

And it would be another game in Montreal that would serve as a bookend to his problem period this season, as his horrific performance in the second game in the Voyageurs Cup would see him owned by both Justin Mapp and (again) Andres Romero.  Morgan is directly at fault for at least two (and really three) of the goals in that game - just watch the entire video and see both Mapp and Romero act like he's not even there as he fails positionally time and again:

During those fun-filled few months we saw a revolving door of adequate substitutions for Morgan out on the left that honestly made a lot of us wonder if he'd ever actually make it back out onto the pitch.  And yet even with his woes with the club, he continues to get called up to the National team along with his backline partner Doneil Henry (as well as Jonathan Osorio and Kyle Bekker).  It is clear that there is talent there and perhaps we should give him a bit of leeway considering his age - he's only 22 - and how quickly he was made a regular starter on a terrible team.  None of that negates that it seemingly took signing a replacement in Jonas Elmer for Morgan to turn his game around (that's some rather expensive motivation) and should he start the 2014 season off in less than stellar form then his team leading games played may be in jeopardy.

However, Morgan did end the year playing much more like the nasty left back of old - one of the highlights being shutting down that Clint Dempsey fellow in the Seattle game back in August.  His partnership with Bobby Convey on the left wing may be at an end depending on what happens in contract negotiations but regardless he's got to return to utilizing his speed and ball skills on the offensive side to offset his often less than stellar positioning on the defensive side. The return of Matias Laba in the midfield will likely aid in this as having a talented DM playing in front of him allows him more freedom to roam - or he could just learn better defensive positioning, baby steps! We'll end it off with the man himself at the end of year media day:

Duncan: 10 It depresses me that Morgan gets top 10 after what I thought was a pretty poor season for him. It started back in January in the friendly against Denmark, he and Tiebert on the left were terrible defensively, repeatedly abused by a less then great Danish side. It continued into the TFC season, where it took less than 3 full games for Nelsen to take him out, preferring Eckersley out on the left, then Logan Emory after Eckersley got injured. Morgan got a few more games after Emory got injured, but was again out of the side in May and June, with Darren O'Dea preferred out there. The 6-0 game in Montreal was probably the nadir of his season, with plenty of mistakes that led directly to goal.

But after O'Dea was shipped out, Morgan got back in the team and despite the arrival of Jonas Elmer, he kept his spot and began to look ok again. Defending remained an adventure, and I think it always will be, but he and Bobby Convey seemed to develop a good understanding and we got to see a bit more of the overlapping down the wing and throwing a cross in that he'd done to such good effect previously. All in all, not the season TFC or Canada fans would have been hoping for, the question is if he can rebound and improve. That might well come down to if TFC improve, if there's anyone who'd benefit from playing for a good team, defensively solid and able to cover for an adventurous full back, with forwards who are good at getting on the end of and convertng crosses, it's Morgan.

Dave: 8. Early in the summer it looked like things had gone off the tracks for Morgan and it was hard to see how he was going to turn it around. He did get back on track though and for the last few months of the season he was back to being a solid player like he had been in the past. When the rest of the back four started to be more stable he started to make fewer mistakes even though he is still not a perfect defender. He continue to rely to much on his speed to make up for lack of actual defending which is a problem against fast attackers but it is just good to see he got back on track and now he will hopefully make actual improvements.

Armen: 8. Had a bit of a rough patch halfway through the season but made up for it at the end. Another solid year for Morgan.

James: 12. Could be argued he took a step back, conversely may have been a necessary one to focus & work on the weak parts of his game - expect better from him next season

a_miller16: Did well to win his job back after a terrible start to the season. Continues to show glimpses of potential offensively but struggles on D. He could possibly benefit in a more attacking position like Russell Tiebert in Vancouver.

Elusivecart: I like him, wish he would get beat less often.

FerantezHe had a bit a roller coaster of a year… but he ended up on top… I do believe he is the weak link at the back… He still needs to improve a lot. He gets beat to easily down the flank.

Henry for PM: Needs some grit, still too easy to beat 1 v 1

Hoddle: Starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel here in terms of a top 10

Ignirtoq: #stillHisPlaceToLose

Izaac: oh ashton… maybe we asked to much of you… maybe you did peak… only the offseason will tell…

JD: Towards the end of the season, he started to show that he does in fact have some talent. I wish he would have been motivated on his own, and not just by the threat of losing his job once Elmer was hired. He deserves top-10, but I wouldn't be too sad to see him replaced with a proven MLS LB of some sort.

Jon Spratt: At this point, he is what he is, you take the good with the bad. At least his performances levelled off from a nightmarish first couple of months.

Mark_HSV: Got better near the end of the season, but I liked when O'Dea played left back for a while instead. I hope he at least becomes a consistent player and gets to stay in the league. Looks like Eddie Murphy a bit, so that earns him some credit too.

Michaelvee: Morgan was actually occasionally alright this year. And he's our left back from now til forever, I reckon, so we'd best get used to that.

Prizby $130,000 and an international roster slot later and TFC has a harder working, rejuvinated Ashtone Morgan; he sorely has missed Danny Koevermans; his assist total in the first half of 2012 (with Koef around) was at least if not more than double than the last half of 2012 and all of 2013; maybe a couple of DP strikers will help find the ends of some of his crosses.

Schtevetown: I still don't think he is MLS starter quality.

The Yorkies: Early season blip in form. Job saved when replacement turned out to be Jonas Elmer.

Yohan: Good on Morgan for winning his starting spot back, but something about him is just not quite satisfying for requirements to be a good MLS fullback.

Number 9: Richard Eckersley

Number 11: Jeremy Hall

Full Top 36 Countdown