Last season, Toronto FC sold its team on flair and offensive ability. The selling point was Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley, Dwayne De Rosario, Gilberto and even Jackson got a couple of promotional looks. When all was said and done, however, it was the backline that came out of the season having made the biggest impression. Although, like with the rest of the team, that impression was more individual than it was collective.
While at times the backline was the porous and disorganized mess that has been all too familiar with this club, Justin Morrow consistently stood out as one of the best defenders the club has ever had. Above all things, consistency is something that Toronto has never had in any facet of its game. Simply delivering the same quality performance game in game out, he made himself the most valuable player on Toronto's roster this past season.
Morrow wasn't nearly as flashy as many of his world renowned teammates, he rarely talked to media because media rarely showed interest in him. That seemed to suit him just fine as he quietly continued to play his game outside of the spotlight. With some of the team's new acquisitions that spotlight will be even further from his face.
While he isn't the quickest or the most skilled left back in Major League Soccer, he is probably the best. His soccer IQ is top notch and often has him thinking one step ahead of even the best opposition attacker. On a backline known for last ditch tackles, Morrow rarely had to rely on a maneuver which is usually indicative of another mistake.
It helps him offensively as well, where Morrow demonstrated his ability to contribute to the attack. He linked up very well with Issey Nakajima-Farran, and fairly well will all of the other left sided attacking players that followed in the Canadian international's wake. His ability to provide accurate low crosses was particularly lethal.
Morrow missed only three games last season, playing 31 and starting 30 games in total. He had six yellow cards but was never sent off, another testament to his discipline. He was unable to score on eight shots, but his crossing ability led to three assists.
While success for most players heading into the 2015 season would be improving on their performance in 2014, for Morrow it would be remaining exactly the same. Circumstances make it so that shouldn't be out of the question. The addition of Damien Perquis to the backline should significantly help Morrow in his role.
Last season, Morrow often had to overstep out of his role to fix situations created by inexperienced centrebacks Doneil Henry and Nick Hagglund. With Perquis in the lineup he has a teammate who is more experienced and in theory should make far less mistakes. This means Morrow will have more time to focus on his role, and potentially be able to push further up the field.
Morrow will also be plenty busy this year as there is no way teams are planning to attack Toronto FC through the middle. With Benoit Cheyrou, Michael Bradley and the upgraded centreback pairing, teams will be looking to swing the ball out wide. Warren Creavalle's side appears to be the obvious weakness, but teams will be coming at Morrow as well.
Expect Morrow to do exactly what he did last season: let his more famous teammates take the headlines while he remains the underrated star of the backline. In the process he will be crucial to a successful Toronto FC backline, and by extension season.