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Ashtone Morgan at 99 appearances

Barring some form of divine intervention, or more likely a trade given this is Toronto FC, Ashtone Morgan will become the first Toronto FC player to make 100 appearances for the club after collecting his 99th all time against Orlando.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

No Toronto FC player has ever managed to make 100 appearances for the club in all competitions.  Some of them have come close but any time that has happened the 100th appearance never been reached.

Stefan Frei made it to 99 appearances for the club but was injured, nailed to the bench, and then traded to the Seattle Sounders.  Dwayne De Rosario came back to the club but barely saw the field in 2014 before find himself out of contract while sitting on 98 appearances.  Jim Brennan retired from playing after making 93 appearances for the club, Julian De Guzman was traded to FC Dallas on the same number, and Doneil Henry was sold to West Ham (via Cyprus) after his 93rd appearance.  Add in Richard Eckersley who was released and eventually made his way to the New York Red Bulls after 92 appearances for the club and you have quite the crowd of players who came close but never made that 100th appearance.

There is one other player who has made over 90 appearances for the club and that is Ashtone Morgan.  At times last season it looked like he would be just one more name to add to the previous list as he fell out of favour with Ryan Nelsen and then did not get a look from Greg Vanney.

An injury riddled back-line opened the door for Morgan this season and after his start against Orlando City over the weekend he now has a total of 99 competitive appearances to his name.  That leaves him level with Frei for the club record with a real chance that he will be the first to reach the century mark this weekend against the Philadelphia Union barring miraculous recoveries by other defenders.

Even if Morgan does not make it to 100 this coming weekend the chances are the wait for his century will not be long.  Given his play in recent weeks it would only make sense to Vanney to continue to give him minutes as he is starting to look like the Morgan who was a fixture on the left side for both club and country.

In his 99 appearances Morgan has featured in 74 MLS matches, 8 Voyageurs Cup games, and 17 CONCACAF Champions league fixtures.  He is 6th in club history for league appearances, joint 6th for Voyageurs Cup appearances, and second in CCL appearances.  Overall, Morgan has been a regular in every competition since he broke in to the first team.

Morgan made his Toronto FC debut in the Champions League back in the fall of 2010 despite having yet to sign his first professional deal.  He put in an impressive performance in a 1-0 win over Arabe Unido which really announced his arrival on the scene for TFC fans.

After that strong debut Morgan was invited to training camp with the first team prior to the 2011 season travelling with the team to Turkey.  Morgan signed to a home grown player deal on March 17th of that year along with Oscar Cordon, Keith Makubuya, and Matt Stinson as Aron Winter desperately worked to add warm bodies to his roster.  While the other three have all since been released by the club without ever really making a name for themselves Morgan has managed to stick around long enough to see his fifth season with the club.

Morgan made his MLS debut for the club shortly after signing on March 26th.  He came on as a second half substitute against the Portland Timbers.  He played just 3 minutes in that first appearance but it would be quite some time before his second MLS appearance.  He did earn himself a spot in the starting lineup before the end of the MLS season though going the full 90 minutes in 9 of the final 11 matches that year.  Morgan also picked up his first MLS assist during that run of games as he set up a goal during a 3-3 draw against DC United.

While waiting for his chance at regular minutes in MLS action, Morgan was continuing to make a name for himself in CONCACAF action.  He was a fixture in Winter's lineup that summer and played a key role in helping the team make it past the group stage for the first time.  He would feature in all 8 matches picking up 5 starts including going the full 90 minutes in several key games for the club late in the group stage.

When the calendar flipped to 2012, Morgan remained a regular in Aron Winter's lineup.  Morgan played all 360 minutes for the team during the knockout stage of the CCL including being involved in a small scuffle at the end of the first leg against Santos Laguna.

Morgan was rested during the first league games of the 2012 season but once the CCL was out of the way he went back to being a regular starter for the club.  He would start 7 games in a row after that and play the full 90 minutes 26 times that season.  Add in 4 more CCL appearances that season and appearances in all 4 Voyageurs Cup games and Morgan was quite a regular in the lineup even after Winter was shown the door and replaced by Paul Mariner.

Morgan's performances in the 2012 season were enough to earn him a second deal with the club as it was announced on July 5th that he had agreed to a longterm extension with the club.  The added years on his deal also came with a nice pay raise making him one of the higher paid Canadians in the league at the time.

With the arrival of Ryan Nelsen as the head coach for the 2013 season, Morgan continued to get a decent number of appearances but the flaws in his game were starting to show.  In Nelsen's system, Morgan was being asked to defend more space and teams were starting to attack his side of the field on a regular basis.  The result of that was Morgan was often getting beat to the inside by his man and not being able to make up for it with his speed like he had early in his career.  He did make a total of 24 appearances that season but by the end of 2013 it was no longer a given that Morgan would be the starting left-back for this team moving forward.

On the back of that up and down season Morgan saw himself relegated to the bench thanks to the club's acquisition of Justin Morrow during the offseason.  The result was that Morgan only made 5 appearances in 2014 leading many to believe that his days in the lineup were numbered.  He was completely out of favour under Ryan Nelsen and even the arrival of Greg Vanney on the bench was not enough to get Morgan back on the field.

Most fans were writing him off heading in to the 2015 season as Morgan looked more likely to get minutes for TFCII in USL than with the first team.  He was clearly behind Morrow on the depth chart and even potentially behind options like playing one of the CBs out of position.

Enter a massive influx of injuries to defenders and suddenly the door opened for Morgan to start making appearances for the club.  With Steven Caldwell, Damien Perquis, Eriq Zavaleta, and Mark Bloom all dealing with injuries and Warren Creavalle and Justin Morrow picking up suspensions at different times Vanney had to look well down his roster for defensive options leading him to turn to Morgan as a potential solution.

Morgan has now made five appearances in the team's first six games of the season and though he probably will return to the bench when everyone is fit he should at least be seen as an option for Vanney given his performances in recent games.  For the first time in over 2 years he has looked like the Nasty Left Back we all grew to love and that should be enough to see him become the all time leader in appearances for the club and reach that century mark.

While becoming the all time leader in appearances for Toronto FC, Morgan has also had a solid international career.  He got his first look with the Canadian National Team under Stephen Hart making his debut during a World Cup qualifying match against Saint Lucia picking up his first assist in a 7-0 romp.  He has gone on to make 12 appearances for Canada including being part of Colin Miller's squad for the 2013 Gold Cup.

As far as hardware the collection is limited for Morgan who was named the Canadian U-20 Player of the Year in 2011 and has two Voyageurs Cup wins on his resume.  His biggest honour may just be the fact that he has made the top 10 in three straight seasons of our year end player countdown.  An accomplishment no other player has yet to achieve.

It has been an impressive run for Morgan so far but hopefully it is only just the beginning for the Nasty Left Back.  He is now 24-years-old and hopefully has the best years of his career ahead of him.  If all goes well 100 appearances for Toronto FC will just be the beginning for Ashtone Morgan.