TORONTO, Canada—Coming out of the 2019 MLS Cup Final against Seattle, it was almost universally agreed upon by Toronto FC fans that what the team needed most was a striker with speed and size—one who could either compliment or supplement the oft-injured Jozy Altidore.
Thus, began the long winter of our discontent as we all collectively scoured the Internet looking for who that missing piece could be.
Yours truly, is a strong believer in that if you speak something enough, you can will the universe to make things happen. I learned this from a wonderful movie with some Jedi Knights and Jar-Jar Binks, the one that didn’t have pod racing, much to Benedict Rhodes’ chagrin.
To that end, I began my personal rally for Toronto FC to go and sign the much maligned Italian striker Mario Balotelli, who once famously asked, “why always me?”
Well, the front office had other plans.
Without any consultation from me or statistical input from Martyn Bailey, they instead went and signed Pablo Piatti—a fine player in 2016-17, but one who was coming off two abysmal seasons and a reconstructed knee to boot.
When an entire fan base spends months dreaming of the most talented strikers in the world joining their club, but instead were told that the player coming in had a total of four goals in the last two years, you can understand the collective sigh that was exalted from the TFC fan base. You can further understand the frustration when it was then revealed that Piatti had been injured in training.
For a brief period there, it seemed that we still hadn’t found what we were looking for.
The curious thing about objects that you are looking for is that they are often found in the last place you check. So, while all of us were focused on Ali Curtis to make a splash in the DP market this offseason, it looks like the answer was actually right under our noses, in the MLS SuperDraft.
Enter Achara, a boy meets world scenario if there ever was one.
This past weekend, with Tsubasa Endoh injured (I know, this like never happens to TFC!), and Liam Fraser still trying to get noticed by Greg Vanney, a spot opened up for the first-round draft pick to make his MLS debut—and what a debut it was.
Achara attacked the opposing backline, supported Atidore in service with Pozuelo, filled the wing opposite of Erickson Gallardo and backtracked to fill voids left by Justin Morrow. He was as complete a player as there could be in their debut on Saturday against NYCFC.
The energy and flair that he brought was infectious.
Toronto FC has produced quite a few Homegrown and drafted midfielders, but when was the last time an attacking forward made their debut for TFC with such an impression?
I, and many other fans that I’ve talked to since last weekend, are already looking forward to
the weekend’s matchup the team’s next matchup, solely because we’re looking forward to seeing what Achara can do again.
It would be easy to write-off his debut as a one-time fluke, but for those who followed along with TFC this preseason, it’s clear that this is a nascent talent whose goal scoring prowess should only increase as experience and maturity are gathered.
A few more matches like the team’s Home Opener and it will be very hard to write Achara out of the starting XI for Piatti (when and if he is eventually healthy).
We wanted and needed a scoring/attacking player on the DP market. We haven’t seen if we have that yet. But what we do know that we have is a roll of the dice on an injured player, with the hopes that he could somehow make a magical recovery to form from three years ago. All of that may be mute now.
DEBUT✔️— TSN Soccer (@TSNSoccer) March 8, 2020
What a first MLS game for Achara! #TFCLive
He joined @KristianJack following @TorontoFC's win over @NYCFC @WhitecapsFC visit @LAGalaxy in Game 2 of our MLS double header - 7pm PT / 10pm ET on TSN1/4 pic.twitter.com/QfojMhZbuc
The Achara superhero origin story is just taking off, and Toronto FC fandom can be excused if we can hardly contain our excitement. The inevitable MLS Cup rematch with Seattle waits in November, and even if the injury bug comes biting again, you know that TFC’s depth will be ready.
So let’s discuss. What does Toronto FC have in Achara?