It is interesting, if nothing else, the proximity of Collen Warner and Issey Nakajima-Farran in Waking The Red’s top 30 countdown: just one spot apart. The two were involved in Toronto FC’s most controversial move of the season, which infamously sent Nakajima-Farran, a fan favourite, to Montreal for Warner on his birthday. Perhaps this ranking is a coincidence, or perhaps it shows how equal this much bemoaned trade really was.
What Collen Warner proved himself to not be this season was any sort of revelation. He was nowhere near the creative presence that Toronto requires in its midfield. His defensive game can be questionable at times. Perhaps most damning is the fact that he probably had the least chemistry of any of the central midfielders with the most important, and consistent, piece of the central midfield in Michael Bradley.
Letting Warner go, however, be it through the expansion draft or other means, also would have been ridiculous for Toronto as he proved himself more than capable of an MLS starting position this year. He likely won’t start with Toronto moving forward, but will provide the kind of depth that never hurts in a league where depth isn’t something found in plentiful.
It really was the return of Michael Bradley that added an unfair stigma to the play of Warner. Prior to that he had performed very impressively, so much so that Ryan Nelsen, among others, often commented that he was the best player on the field in some matches. There was significant anticipation at that time that Warner would finally be the midfield partner for Bradley that had been lacking considering the consistent injury struggles of Jonathan Osorio. All of this went by the wayside when it became quickly apparent that Bradley and Warner were not compatible.
As a result of this there are certainly two very separate opinions on whether or not Toronto FC won this controversial trade. Likely the more common of the two is that the trade was a huge mistake and unfair treatment of one of Toronto’s best players at the time. The other is that Toronto was able to sell high on Nakajima-Farran, considering how highly regarded he was within the community. In reality, as the rankings of both players suggest, it was a rather even trade giving both teams important depth pieces for their future.
In terms of statistics, Warner played 20 games this season, 19 of them starts, and had two assists. By earning those 19 starts he proved that he was a player trusted and rated by both Nelsen and, more importantly at this point, Greg Vanney.
His future with the club in terms of role will largely depend upon who is acquired over the offseason. While there has been no guarantee it is ridiculous to think that Toronto would not at least put significant effort into acquiring some sort of number 10, be that a new designated player or otherwise. Having another face in the midfield will almost certainly decrease Warner’s playing time.
Unless they can figure it out, there is also not very much likelihood that Warner will be on the field very often at the same time as Michael Bradley. Even Kyle Bekker seemed to be a slightly better fit with Toronto’s American star. But he is a perfectly ideal candidate to start in place of Bradley, by that as a result of injury, rest or for Canadian Championship fixtures.
Warner is not the most inspiring player Toronto have been able to retain this offseason, but he certainly has a role to play with the club going forward.