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TFC Top 30 Countdown: #16 Jackson

Closing down the back-half of the countdown in sixteenth place is Jackson, a player who contributed much more than such a lowly position belies, but never quiet worked his way into the hearts of TFC fans, troubled by his inconsistent nature

Never one to shy away from confrontation, Jackson squares up to Nigel Reo-Coker having given TFC the lead against Chivas
Never one to shy away from confrontation, Jackson squares up to Nigel Reo-Coker having given TFC the lead against Chivas
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Fleet-of-foot, tricky, if quiet, and occasionally maddening, the Brazilian was a mainstay in the Toronto FC lineup this season, starting 21 matches and featuring in a further five from the bench, racking up nearly nineteen-hundred minutes (1842 to be exact) in the process – the ninth most from a player this season.

From the flanks – he was fielded on either side, depending on who else was in the starting eleven, and would regularly swap wings throughout matches – he was a contributor to the scoring, racking up four goals and one assist, good enough for fourth in the team, behind only Jermain Defoe, Gilberto, and Luke Moore.

The best of his strikes came in a losing effort against Kansas City back in July, when he committed to making the back-side run, wagering that Dominic Oduro would spot his diagonal movement, rounding Andy Gruenebaum and coolly slotting into the gaping net in the sixteenth minute to give TFC the lead. Of course, TFC would relinquish that early lead, conceding twice to Sporting in the second half as their downward spiral began to take shape in those heady midsummer days.

Aside from such busting runs, what made Jackson an asset to the club, was his willingness to get forward, to try things, such as this cheeky back-heel to Jonathan Osorio that resulted in the eventual game-winner as Defoe cancelled out a first-half two-goal Houston lead:

As such, Jackson was arguably one of the most entertaining players to watch this season; one never knew just want he was going to do – for better or worse. And he is a player that may flourish in a side that has a more cohesive attack. 2014 TFC was often a disjointed mess in the final third; there were never enough runners in the box and the link up play struggled with attackers more often than not isolated on the ball.

In fact, Jackson was one of the few that was willing to make those runs, to put himself in the position to make something of the good work of others – his goal against Chicago, pushing deep into the box to get on the end of a Defoe cross, was a prime example.

As an attacker, Jackson is audacious, in that he tries things and always looks to move forward – a valuable and oft-missing threat this past season.

His other two goals, against New England and Chivas, came from just such willingness; hopeful attempts on goal that took a deflection and beat the keeper. MLS, as with much of the world's soccer, rewards those who dare. Not everything has to be perfectly passed into the back of the net, sometimes 'hit and hope' is a worthwhile option.

The goal against the Revolution would give TFC a lead after just six minutes – a tidy advantage – though, much as would happen months later against Kansas City, they would concede that lead in short order. While his strike against Chivas would prove the game-winner, standing up from the 23rd minute onward in a much-needed 3-0 win to breath life into a dying season.

All four of his goals came in the first half; all four opened the scoring in their respective matches – a truly useful skill in a sport where the first goal can – and should – be decisive. Disturbingly, TFC scored just 21 goals in the first half this season.

For such a mild-mannered interview, barely raising his voice above a whisper or flashing a smile, Jackson has a temper – not necessarily a bad thing, as that extra impetus has its benefits, but one that surges to the front on occasion and could penalize the team – which it likely did in late September, as any lingering playoff hopes were dashed.

He twice put himself in the glare of the MLS Disciplinary Committee, catching DC United's Davy Arnaud with a stray elbow – he was assessed a one-game suspension after the fact – and then getting involved in a fracas with Chivas' Nigel Reo-Coker. Both players were red carded, Jackson's automatic two-match suspension for violent conduct was upheld by the DisCo, meaning he was unavailable when the team needed him most.

That said, he racked up only five yellow cards this season, which is not a bad return for such a physically involved player.

Acquired from FC Dallas last season in exchange for allocation money and a conditional second-round draft pick in 2015 – who knows what the status of that conditional aspect is – Jackson was one of several in-league signings that TFC made in the last twelve months that included the likes of Justin Morrow, Dominic Oduro, and Collen Warner.

While not as successful – or loved – as Morrow, Jackson was definitely one of the more positive moves made in the off-season, though, with new manager, Greg Vanney, stating that he wanted more from his wide attackers in his post-season press conference, it will be interesting to see if Jackson excels or is allowed to leave to another club. He would have some trade value within the league if necessary and was already under contract for the 2015 season – even before TFC exercised the options on a slew of players.

One thing that can be said with certainty, is that Jackson is not a defender – or at least, would need to time there to readjust his mindset. He really struggled in his one defensive outing, conceding the first of two penalty kicks to Kansas City in a desperate, short-handed 4-1 loss.

Should he remain in Vanney's plans, his speedy, attacking instinct, and grit – albeit with an improved ability to maintain discipline – can be very useful to a side that needs players that can cover lots of ground, contributing both offensively and defensively in a quick, breakout style, while remaining tenacious and hard to beat.

There was plenty of good from the mysterious Jackson this season and as a part of an improved, more committed side, he could rightfully excel.