Dominic Oduro is fast.
Unfortunately, that may be the only aspect of his game that all Toronto FC fans can agree upon. Coming in at #15 in the 2014 rendition of TFC’s top 30 performers, Oduro is one of those players whose skills and ability are heavily contested in the pubs of Liberty, stands of BMO, and comment sections of Waking The Red.
Oduro came to Toronto FC in exchange for our matador on the wing, Alvaro Rey. With Rey, we all knew what we had- a flashy player with fancy footwork who could never distribute the ball to his intended target. Some (myself included) were at least a little sad to see him go, because his game was, at the very least, entertaining. But most seemed to understand the move and quickly came to terms with it, once more putting their faith in Little Tim.
What we got in return for Alvaro Rey was Dominic Oduro (@Freakyfast8), the man with the hairdo flashier than Alvaro’s footwork. A striker by trade and winger by… more recent trade, Dominic Oduro had seemingly become a paradox in MLS. Oduro appeared to be both a journeyman (TFC is his sixth MLS team) and proven commodity in the league… at least until 2014. Oduro hit the back of the target 12 times with the Chicago Fire in 2011 and 13 times with Columbus in 2013 (adding 4 assists that year), clearly demonstrating his ability to finish and occasionally even set others up to do the same. But in 2014, Oduro fell out of favor with the Crew, and after a particularly unproductive start to the campaign (where he mostly honed his bench-warming ability), Oduro found himself packing his bags and heading to the land of Drizzy & the Bloody Big Deal.
With TFC fans hopeful that Oduro would re-gain his form that saw him hit double-digits in goals in multiple MLS years, Nelsen opted to give his new winger a good dose of playing time as soon as he arrived. From his first few matches in red, TFC fans could already sense the speediness and explosiveness of our most recent acquisition. What they questioned most, when it came to Oduro, was his ball control, passing/crossing skills (and vision), and ability to track back. With TFC fans getting accustomed to watching Jackson (a one-man wrecking ball) on the wing, Oduro’s hesitation to both track back and get stuck in soon became all the more glaring.
On the offensive side, Oduro’s inability to… catch up to himself, led to an unproductive start with Toronto, as he only registered one assist in his first 4 matches (225 minutes of play). Not one to be discouraged, the Ghanaian speedily turned his game around, scoring twice and adding three assists over the next six matches. Both of Oduro’s goals came against the same team, unsurprisingly one of his former clubs- the Houston Dynamo. Unfortunately neither goal was really highlight real material for Oduro, as his first goal required a second go (rebound off his own shot straight at the keeper) and the second was a tap-in that even Ol Gil would have… probably… converted. Oduro did, notably, show some class after his first goal with TFC, refraining from celebrating out of respect for his former teammates.
While the goals were nothing to write home about, Oduro’s assists throughout the season have been well-placed passes that TFC wingers have historically been terrible at executing. Here’s where I personally think Oduro’s haters have a very selective memory. Many claim that while he can run, he can’t pass or set players up- but let’s recall this wonderfully crafted play to send the ball ahead of Gilberto and meet his run:
Of course, any player can get lucky once and pull off a flukey lead pass. But let’s also recall a very similar pass from Oduro placed ahead of Jackson, which the oft-clumsy footed Brazilian actually managed to convert-
Now while both of these demonstrate an impressive vision to send a ball through to a teammate on a run, I fully realize that a sample of two won’t be enough to convince those who question Oduro’s ability. For that reason, this article is headed into highlight overload. Dom Oduro is not only able to find a man on the run, but can also place a perfect pass right onto the foot of a striker in an opportune position. Here he manages to get one through to our highest paid striker in just his second game with TFC-
And I’ll add in one more for good measure, this one-timed volley directly to the boot of our other DP striker- you know, the one who we actually care about keeping this off-season:
Adding to his passing ability, another "skill" that Oduro brings to the table is his penchant for drawing fouls. Some may argue he’s soft on the ball, or that he likes to embellish, but the fact is, unlike our other oft-fouled attacker (Gilberto), Oduro does get the calls. He drew SEVEN fouls in one game against those bullies from Kansas City (tying his career-high), and over the course of the season Oduro was fouled three or more times in seven games. I would assert that the root cause of the persistent fouling is a combination of teams not being able to cope with his speed (not wanting to let him by) and Oduro going down easily, but regardless- if TFC manage to hone their set piece play, we may just want freakyfast out on the field to win us a free kick or seven.
Sure enough, all good things come to an end, and after the aforementioned 6 game tear that Oduro found himself on, the winger hit a chilling cold streak and finished the season with just one more assist (and only two shots on target) over his last FOURTEEN games. Even the introduction of Greg Vanney as coach seemed to change little in Oduro’s performance- and for those wondering, Oduro was deployed just as frequently under both regimes.
For Dominic Oduro, the highlights speak for themselves- he is a skilled player. He is also, unfortunately, streaky (or at least was with Toronto FC). While he led the team in assists with 5, it was such a low bar that it can hardly be considered an accomplishment, especially for a player making $250,000. I’m sure there will always be fans who focus only on Oduro’s clumsy sprints where he loses track of where he was going or what he was intending on doing. That being said, I, for one, have also taken notice of his passing technique and improved defensive play over the course of the season, and I am still convinced he brings a lot of value to the squad (just for a little too much money). One thing we can all be certain of is that TFC fans will be hoping Oduro shows more consistency in his play next season, and perhaps also finds that scoring touch that he seemed to lose in 2014.