Developing and fielding Canadian players remains an important goal set out by the club and its staff. The significance of this particular subject cannot be underestimated for Canadian soccer given the fact that there are only 3 Major League Soccer clubs in the country.
Each club bears a huge responsibility in developing professional talent that can support Canada in reaching a World Cup. However, as the years have progressed and quality of MLS has risen, Toronto FC have been using fewer Canadian players.
This upcoming season has the potential to change this, as the acquisition of Will Johnson along with the development of academy graduates has allowed for the opportunity to see more Canadian players next season. The club currently has 7 Canadian players on the roster, three of which have played World Cup qualifiers in 2015 and should feature regularly with Toronto FC. The ensuing article will consider each Canadian player on the roster and highlight their expected role in the upcoming MLS season.
Fresh off an MLS Cup triumph with the Portland Timbers, Will Johnson joins Toronto with all the necessary attributes the club were looking for this offseason. A two-time MLS Cup winner and a three-time All Star, Johnson brings plenty of MLS experience to the midfield. A tenacious, tough-tackling player, Johnson will be expected to start every game he is available for alongside his best friend Michael Bradley. With his leg injury fully behind him and still being in his 20's, it is expected that Johnson will go back to his old form of being an All Star in MLS and will continue to be the engine in Canada's midfield.
Osorio played more minutes last season than all other Canadian players combined and has consistently improved each season with the club. Despite a falling out with Canadian coach Benito Floro, Osorio's club form has flourished into becoming a quality starting midfielder. Similar to Will Johnson, it is expected that Jonathan Osorio will start the majority of games and will remain an important player for the club next season. Osorio had the best passing precision on the team while recording 7 assists last season, but will want to find his scoring touch as well in 2016. Should he reconcile with Floro and continue his fine form, expect Osorio to be called into the national team in 2016.
The longest tenured player and the all-time appearance leader for Toronto is academy graduate Ashtone Morgan.
Entering his 7th season with Toronto, Morgan has had an up and down career with his hometown club. Having solidified himself as the starting left back in late 2011, he maintained that role until the end of the 2013 season. Toronto then acquired Justin Morrow, which rooted Morgan to the bench in 2014. However, when finally given a real chance this past season, he showed that he is still a promising fullback and has great speed and crossing ability. This season will likely see Morgan being first off the bench as a left-back or even a left sided midfielder, but he will likely make a few less appearances than the 19 he made in 2015.
A young midfielder with promising potential, Chapman appeared in 10 matches in 2015, but played only 202 minutes. He had a few chances to break into the starting XI, but lost that spot to Marky Delgado. Barring significant improvement this offseason, it is likely that Chapman will again be the 7th option in the midfield behind the starting four, Collen Warner and Delgado. Therefore, it is likely that 2016 is not the season that Chapman becomes a regular member in the 18, however if he continues to improve and develop the attributes he has displayed for TFCII, Chapman can become an important player in the future.
Since being signed to the first team in 2012, Roberts has yet to play a competitive match for Toronto, however has plenty of experience in USL Pro. As a result, it is probable that this is the season Roberts finally gets to make an appearance with the first team. Given the departures of Joe Bendik and Chris Konopka, it is likely that Toronto just sign one goalkeeper in January making Roberts the backup. Assuming Toronto's starting goalkeeper does not play the entire season, it is safe to say Roberts will get his chance at some point. This upcoming season should see Roberts continue to improve through USL Pro and hopefully make an impression with the first team.
Entering his third season with Toronto, Hamilton has yet to see major minutes with the first team. With 3 games and 14 minutes played in two seasons combined, Hamilton hasn't had a real chance with the first team. Having started out as a huge prospect, Hamilton has not lived up to the hype and only recorded 3 goals in 20 matches for TFCII and did not even make the squad in the U-23 Olympic Qualifying tournament for Canada. Hamilton may get his chance in June during the Copa America and Euro Cup assuming Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore are selected, but will need to impress in order to advance up the depth chart. At 19, Hamilton still remains one for the future, but needs to develop and improve with TFC II in 2016.
Mannella will likely spend another year without making an appearance with the first team. With plenty of options in the midfield for Toronto, he is likely to remain at the bottom of the depth chart this season. It is unfortunate for Mannella to likely not get any playing time again, but hopefully this will not become a common theme for upcoming academy graduates. The silver lining for the 21 year old midfielder is that he will remain the TFC II captain and can hopefully impress in his second season in USL Pro.
Barring any more Canadian acquisitions this offseason, that will conclude the list of Canadians that may feature for Toronto in 2016. This past season only saw four different Canadian players make an appearance and they totaled only 4,004 minutes played in league matches.
While this is surely the fewest amount of Canadian minutes in a season for Toronto, 2016 should see a reasonable increase in that number. Without any unforeseen circumstances, there should always be at least one Canadian player on the field at all times, something that was not always the case in 2015.
With the addition of Will Johnson to the midfield and the possibility of seeing Quillan Roberts make a few appearances, Toronto FC will look to find greater success next season while utilizing more hometown favourites.