On Thursday, Toronto FC named Quillan Roberts the backup goalkeeper heading into the 2016 season. With three goalkeepers at Toronto's disposal it was unclear if the Brampton local or Toronto FC newcomer, Alex Bono, would be taking the number two slot. With ex-Rapids shot stopper Clint Irwin expected to start between the posts the decision was made clear when Bono returned home to join TFC II this week.
Roberts has represented Canada at the U-17 level playing, and scoring, in the World Cup and was the seventh player to graduate from Toronto FC's academy. He has gone four years without a start with the first team but spent last season with Toronto FC II going 3-5-7 before training with the Werder Bremen's U23s in the offseason. Unless Irwin picks up an injury, Roberts will expect to start his first Toronto FC game in the Voyageurs Cup against Montreal on June 1st.
This is good news for Quillan and the Toronto FC Academy. After years of patience and service it is a positive move by the club to reward, and trust, a player of their own development system.
When coach Greg Vanney was first hired in 2014 he stated that he was one to "believe in the Canadian player" and with Vanney making this decision, he was good on his word. Like Doneil Henry, Jordan Hamilton, and others before him it will be Quillan's responsibility to represent the academy well.
With coaching turnover historically high at Toronto FC, it is important for current and future coaches to be able to look to the TFCA as a solution to holes in the roster. Just as important, as of this season Toronto FC will have signed and given playing time to academy players in all areas of the pitch as forwards, midfielders and defenders have all signed and played previously.
This is move is equally important from a player's perspective. For the youth who are working their way through the academy ranks it is crucial for one of their own to sign and play with the first team. Not only does it motivate other academy players to reach that level, but gives credibility to the system in the eyes of the academy products and their commitment to the team. With their goals of playing at the professional level still a dream, this may make the pathway they are on feel a little more tangible.
Toronto FC will play its final preseason match this Saturday at 4pm. Expect Irwin to get the start prior to the season opener in New York on March 6th.