As is the case with most picks that come off the board, not a whole lot is known about Toronto FC first round pick Tsubasa Endoh. The University of Maryland player did not go very high in anyone's MLS Mockdrafts, nor was he highly touted on scouting lists either.
In fact the SB Nation MLS Mock Draft, which we all know is the authority on everything draft related, saw Orlando City SC blog "The Mane Land" take Endoh with the 32nd overall pick. But we all know MLS Mock Drafts are very rarely anywhere near the results of the actual draft.
For that reason the site wanted to learn more, so we talked to Jason Anderson of Black and Red United, who regularly watches University of Maryland games. Here are some questions we asked him about the Toronto first rounder.
1. What impressed you most about Endoh this past season?
Endoh seemed to improve his balance and core strength, which is vital for a player of his size. Teams often opted for a physical approach against him, but this year he seemed better at holding off those challenges to keep possession. I was also impressed with his ability to take on more responsibility with a Terrapins team that was very young in the midfield and up top. Despite playing right midfield for most of the season, he still ended up being the main creative force for Maryland from open play.
2. In what areas does he need to improve to be an important player in Major League Soccer?
Endoh's range of passes is a bit limited in possession. He's very good in the attacking third, but in the middle he looks for short passes first, second, and third. His defending - not in terms of effort, but in terms of decision-making and awareness are probably also going to need some work. Neither of these are giant problems, but they are things he'll likely be focusing on. He will also have to be a bit sharper positionally on both sides of the ball, as college soccer let him get away with some overly attack-minded choices at times.
3. Toronto FC Picked him higher than he was expected to go, was this a good pick?
Like most observers, I was surprised he went as early as he did. TFC only had one pick, though, and if they couldn't work a deal for the rest of their list (or to trade down in the hopes that he'd still be there), there are worse fates than getting a player you wanted.
I don't think this was a consequence of his being the combine MVP, for whatever that's worth. Endoh played for 4 years at arguably the premier college soccer program in the country, so it's not like MLS coaches were unfamiliar with him. Instead, I think TFC saw a player that fit the style they'd like to play and grabbed him rather than overthinking it or rolling the dice on his availability later in the draft.
4. What is Endoh's ideal position, where do you see him playing with Toronto FC?
Endoh was mostly a right midfielder for the Terps, but Sasho Cirovski also used him centrally at times over the years (as the attacking midfielder in both a diamond and a 4231). However, when push came to shove Endoh ended up on the right side.
He's more of a narrow player, which fits most of the varied formations Greg Vanney has tried in Toronto. Endoh's role at Maryland was most often to come in from the wing and create from within the width of the 18 yard box rather than to sprint down the touchline and whip in crosses (though he is a precise crosser when the opportunity presents itself).
5. Endoh is a smaller player, do you expect height to be a problem at all in the physical MLS?
No more so than most MLS players under 5'11". He's a quick, agile player with good balance, so most of the time he's able to dodge physical play (or at least keep his feet when he can't avoid contact). Endoh spent 4 years learning about the physicality present in the college game, and I think he's going to be able to bring his technical style of play to MLS without being ground to dust. He's small, but he's not Joao Plata small.