Editorial Note: Written by James Hutton. Who's account wasn't working at time of publishing.
With Manny Aparicio being released last week the news set off a few alarm bells for fans of the TFC Academy. It was a short year and a half that Manny Aparicio lasted with the Toronto FC first team and while soccer clubs can see heavy turnover Aparicio was the 8th homegrown player signed out of TFC's academy while five other players remain in the first team. Ashtone Morgan, Quillan Roberts, Jordan Hamilton, Chris Mannella and Jay Chapman will be around next season but with the above players seeing limited minutes with the first team some supporters are questioning what is next for the TFCA.
While TFC's academy has undoubtedly produced players in varying skill level over the years, academy players have yet to make a consistent lasting impression on the first team. Doneil Henry aside, the five current Homegrown players saw few minutes in 2015. Only 31 matches were seen between the five players while Roberts and Manella didn't see a single game.
As Toronto FC looks to manage their current Homegrown situation the Academy looks to continue to prep players who may be ready for the next level; forward Cyrus Rollocks may be one of those players. With 14 goals in League 1 Ontario last season Rollocks finished fourth on the scoring charts helping the team to a fifth place finish.
With only six goals off the golden boot another season similar to last would be beneficial to the seventeen year old as Toronto look to the future. This season the first team will be looking to fill Robbie Findley's role and with Jordan Hamilton primed to step into the opening expect Rollocks to be considered for the Hamilton's position in the coming years if he can keep up the scoring pace.
More likely Toronto FC will be in the market for defenders to tighten a back line that tied for first in most Goals Allowed last season. While the Academy is less likely to provide players that Toronto FC will be prepared to start each week, it is a position that Toronto FC will want to get right as the defence is an area of the squad that can be built without breaking the bank. Often teams will look to colleges and academies to bring in value players that can perform while the club spends money on the proven goal scorers.
While the Doneil Henry success story has ended for Toronto FC there are academy players gaining national team recognition that Toronto FC will look to mature for the future. Gabriel Boakye and Marcus Godinho were two fullbacks called up to the Canadian under 20 camp as the team met Mexico in two friendlies. Despite the loss and tie the two will continue to be on the radar of the club as they work towards the Under 20 World Cup in 2017.
Is the state of the academy worrying? No. players are coming through, being signed and contributing on the national level in the lower age groups. As time progresses and the leagues grow more competitive we can expect a higher level of academy player coming through the ranks. Patience is a virtue and the results of investing in youth will pay off in the long run, just don't expect immediate dividends.