Tsubasa Endoh's long road to professional soccer has finally reached its conclusion as the midfielder has signed his first ever professional contract.
Toronto FC's first round pick, 9th overall, was consistently impressive throughout preseason making 7 appearances for the club and getting on the score sheet on one occasion. In the games that fans were able to watch it was clear that Endoh was capable of providing the width that this team was so often lacking last year.
With so few natural wide players on the roster there is a decent chance that fans are going to get used to seeing Endoh involved in games this season. He gives them the kind of width that will allow coach Greg Vanney to force opposing teams to adjust to a bit of a different look. Last year, the team was lacking the ability to play with any real threat out wide and they were often exposed by teams that were setup to take advantage of all the space left open by TFC's narrow midfield.
With that glaring opening there is a chance that Endoh could be getting regular minutes this season and given the nature of TFC's midfield he could wind up looking quite good out there. He could even be looked at as a long shot candidate to be one of the top rookies in MLS this season.
"Throughout preseason Tsubasa has shown a high level of professionalism. He has done a great job of integrating into the group and has been a solid contributor thus far," said Toronto FC General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. "He is a player that we have liked for some time and one with a great amount of upside. We are excited to get this deal done and have Tsubasa as a member of Toronto FC."
Endoh, now 22, has quite a resume behind him having spent four years playing at the University of Maryland and has also represented his native Japan all the way up to the U-17 level. He has the kind of technical ability that you might expect from a player that was developed by those two programs and has shown plenty of confidence in his preseason appearances.
The signing of Endoh leaves just one player, Mo Babouli, currently training with the first team that is not under an MLS contract. It also leaves the team with a single open roster spot on the first team and while this move will have no impact on the salary cap the team does still have questions about how they will ensure they are cap compliant by the deadline which comes up this week.
If TFC are going to make any more moves this will likely arrive in the next couple of days. With First Kick coming on March 6th for Toronto they have almost no questions left to answer. It is a nice change from some of their previous nine seasons when large portions of the roster were still in flux when the team hit the field for their first MLS game.
When TFC do take to the field against the New York Red Bulls next Sunday there is a real chance that we see Endoh making his professional debut.