It may be the international break, but Toronto FC has kept very busy. In the past couple of days the team has made a pair of signings ahead of their March 31 home opener against Sporting KC. First the club announced the signing of veteran MLS centreback Jason Hernandez. Yesterday, they signed draft pick Oyvind Alseth, who plays rightback.
In doing so, GM Tim Bezbatchenko added more depth to what is already one of the deepest rosters in Major League Soccer. Alseth’s addition in particular addresses a need, as TFC’s right back depth was fairly thin after Steven Beitashour.
To find out more about these new players, Waking the Red reached out to a couple of different sources. Here is what Toronto FC fans can expect from the latest signings.
Jason Hernandez Age:33 Position: Centreback
In Hernandez, Toronto FC acquires a MLS veteran who has appeared in 275 games. He started his career with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, and has since played with Chivas USA, San Jose Earthquakes and most recently New York City FC. Naturally, Waking the Red reached out to Hudson River Blue, SB Nation’s NYCFC blog, to find out more.
What strengths does he have as a defender?
Jason is a warrior and a sturdy presence in the middle of the defense. He plays without fear or hesitation.
Why did NYCFC let him go?
His wages were pretty high for a guy who didn't figure as a starter going forward under Patrick Vieira, and there was a clear move toward making the team younger in 2017.
He has plenty of experience, is he a backline leader?
I'd guess that experience and leadership were the main factors contributing to his signing at TFC. He's played in a lot of different systems, and remains a huge fan favourite at San Jose, where he played for 7 seasons. When NYCFC visited there last year, the fans made a huge banner in his honour.
Can he play in a three man backline?
At this point in his career, he's not an ideal choice for a back 3. The narrow confines of Yankee Stadium make it a lot easier to close things down laterally, but he won't have that luxury anymore. That said, he can be a meaningful defensive sub and spot starter in the middle given the help he'll have around him-- playing with guys like Josh Williams, Chris Wingert, Jefferson Mena didn't do Jason many favours.
Oyvind Alseth Age: 22 Position: Right Fullback
Alseth was a third round pick (65th overall) in this year’s MLS SuperDraft out of Syracuse, which is quickly becoming Toronto FC’s feeder school. The Norwegian has been signed primarily to compete for the job of reserve fullback behind Steven Beitashour. He impressed at camp, and has earned a contract as a result.
Waking the Red reached out to Matthew Stith, a former teammate of Alseth’s with Syracuse. Stith described Alseth as a technically sound player with a high IQ. He is a player who has quality going forward who likes to involve his teammates. He can play all sorts of positions, as he played throughout the midfield and even striker in college.
Stith said that Alseth is originally an outside back, however. He says Alseth is a great fit for the 3-5-2, as that is the formation that Syracuse played. He told Waking the Red that Alseth was one of the team’s best and most consistent players over the course of his college career.