Collen Warner's start in Toronto came in a controversial fashion, as he was traded in exchange for fan favourite Issey Nakajima-Farran. However, since then he has quietly won over Toronto fans with his consistent and strong play. With Issey playing in the Malaysian Super League after barely getting a chance in Montreal it is clear who won the trade.
Average Rating: 8.5
Highest Rating: 7
Lowest Rating: 12
Warner's best play this season came as a defensive option in a 4-4-2 diamond midfield that Greg Vanney played midway through the season. His ability to contribute to the attack while also being defensively responsible was of vital importance. A lot of Toronto's midfielders, considering how many goals the club gave up last season, have difficulty doing both.
Last year he played in 29 games for Toronto FC, starting in 20 of them and tying a career high of number of games played in a MLS season. In that time he would score 2 goals and add 2 assists. This was also a career high output, as Warner had only scored one goal prior to this season.
With Toronto Warner appears to be constantly improving, but one of his problems is that he is too similar to Michael Bradley. His best performances this year came when Toronto's captain was away. When the two play together they often struggle and get in each other's way too much.
This also has an upside, however, as he is an ideal candidate to replace Bradley whenever he is on national team duty. While his attacking skills aren't as strong as Bradley's the club barely has to change the system at all when Warner replaces him.
In itself this is a big part of the argument to keep Warner around, even with Will Johnson making the midfield crowded. Bradley will spend a good chunk of the season with the US Men's National Team at the Copa America Centenario. Regardless, Warner is still an excellent depth option to have. Salary cap space can be made by moving depth pieces in other positions, like the forwards and centrebacks.
Depth players like Warner, who can do a job very well and consistently, are exactly what is needed to be successful in MLS. They are the type of players that Toronto has never had enough of, and as a result have struggled when they are missing their star players.
Going forward, all of this is why Warner continues to be an important player for Toronto FC, even if they do switch to 4-3-3 and there is one less midfield starting spot this year. Eventually Chris Mannella should be able to do what Warner does, but not yet. At $157,437 he also is not overtly expensive.