It is not often that a player committing to join Toronto FC's academy is going to move the needle. Normally the process is just a matter of a local kid coming to the annual tryout and earning a place and there is little reason for any fanfare what-so-ever.
TFC's academy is still in its infancy and any talent it has been able to produce may just have had more to do with the GTA being stocked with talented soccer players than anything that they have really been doing right. They are nothing like the legendary academies of the soccer world where they are brining in talent from all over the World at young ages and grooming them into the sorts of players they want. In fact, thanks to the rules put in place by MLS there is little room for academies to go out and recruit talent since players in the academy system are not signed to any form of contract.
With all that in mind, Toronto FC have officially made an addition through their academy that is worth moving the needle. Over the summer months they had a one of the top Jamaican youth internationals on trial with them and he will now join the academy on a full time basis starting in January.
That top Jamaican prospect is Martin Davis who has represented his country at the U-17 and U-20 levels in recent years. He was part of the Jamaican team that went up against Canada for a spot in the U-17 World Cup back in 2014. Canada won that game 4-2 to book their place in the World Cup but despite the loss several Canadian players noted Davis as being one of the most talented players on that Jamaican squad.
Along with representing his country at the youth level, Davis has had some trial stints in Europe as catching the eye of various clubs. Martin has developed his game over stints with Valencia CF and Levante having left for Spain as a 14-year-old.
Now the midfielder is set to join Toronto FC having been invited to begin training with the senior team starting on January 12th. The 17-year-old did so well with the academy over his visit this summer that he is now going to get the chance to make the move permanent.
It will be interesting to see what squad Davis winds up being a member of once he arrives in Toronto. The creation of the new USL Pro side might just open the door even wider for Davis as it could give him a chance to continue his development at a higher level than he might otherwise have been exposed to in Jamaica. He could also wind up playing with the League 1 Ontario team as a member of the Senior academy squad.
The arrival of Davis in TFC's development system gives them another talented midfielder in a pipeline that is already quite well stocked in that area. The team has Manuel Aparicio and Chris Mannella already signed to home grown contract, they have young players in the first team in Jonathan Osorio and Kyle Bekker, and they have the likes of Mark Anthony Kaye, Dylan Sacramento, and Anthony Osorio all making their way up through the academy. Add in the potential to sign Michigan State standout, Jay Chapman, and it is an area of the field stocked with young talent. Davis would just make that pool just a little bit deeper.
What Davis brings is not the typical skill set that you see from most CONCACAF players. When you watch him play you can see the influence of his time training in Spain as he is strong on the ball, quick with his feet, and always looking for the next pass and the keep the ball moving. He does not have the size or pace to rely on physical skills so instead he relies on being a smart player and playing the game at a high pace.
Davis has spent most of his playing time on the wing in recent seasons. He started out as a striker when he headed to Spain but was moved to the wing during his time there and it seems to be a position that suits his style of play and has allowed him to flourish.
The addition of Davis might not be the biggest move that Toronto FC make this offseason but if he continues to develop it could prove to be one of the wisest in the long run. He is the kind of player that TFC should be looking to add to the roster of their USL Pro team with an eye towards eventually giving them a shot in the first team.
The rules in place for academies and even Canadian USL Pro sides make it difficult to bring in international talent like Davis but in this case the Jamaican midfielder has one thing on his side. Davis's father happens to be Canadian so the young midfielder has a Canadian passport to go along with his Jamaican citizenship. That means that he would count as a domestic player for Toronto FC's system in the eyes of both MLS and USL Pro.
So for now Davis will be joining the senior academy team but if he can continue to develop on his current trajectory it should not be long before he is making the step to the next level.