If the return of a truncated MLS season proves true, and with the growing likelihood of the return of Michael Bradley, it might be time for Toronto FC to again consider a loan deal for Liam Fraser.
It was not so long ago in the preseason that GM Ali Curtis and the Reds organization were staring at the prospect of lending their young midfielder to another team; at only 22, the Toronto native was hungry for minutes at a pivotal point in his development. A European squad seemed like a golden opportunity for allowing him to get some real experience under his feet.
Then Michael Bradley got injured, and all eyes shifted to Fraser.
“Obviously it’s disappointing for Michael (Bradley), disappointing for the team—for the organization,” Fraser told reporters then. “I know all of us are behind him for a quick recovery, just because he plays such a big part in this club. But for myself personally, it’s an opportunity for me to show and perform that I’m ready for this level.”
"Being a kid from Toronto, and playing for your hometown, occupying what I think is the most important position in football [...], that's what excites me and kind of gets me up in the morning."— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) January 21, 2020
( : @Shuttersworth_ ) | #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/ZG2QYNi3HG
Yet, like the injury that felled MB4, no one was expecting a pandemic to cripple the entire football world and suspend the season. TFC has been tight-lipped about the recovery of both Bradley and Pablo Piatti, but so much time has passed since then that Bradley’s purported four-month stint in recovery is almost definitely over.
“At the end of the day, I need games to develop; I need minutes to develop,” Fraser said during the same training session. “I’ve always said, whether it’s here, whether it’s somewhere else, I just need minutes, opportunities, and experiences to better myself as a footballer and to better me as a person.”
And he isn’t wrong. Fraser appeared in just 14 minutes in the team’s opening two games of 2020, and if Bradley does return to his iconic midfield role—and with 25-year-old Marky Delgado agreeing to a new long-term contract with the club—what then to do with their young midfielder?
With the Bundesliga back in action, a spell in Europe is not completely off the table. Further, if the German league sees a lot of success during the pandemic, other big leagues may follow suit, opening yet more opportunities.
There is also the contingency that Bradley does not immediately assume full responsibility of his role; management might want to ease him back into the midfield, which opens the door for Fraser to get time in during actual matches.
But as Fraser himself said, this is a critical period in his growth as a player. He needs minutes, and splitting the difference seems like a waste for both him as a player and TFC as an organization, especially because of how much potential he has shown.
“He’s a great player. He comes in every day ready to work,” Jozy Altidore said of his teammate. “I watched him for Canada (back in January). I thought he was the best player for Canada in both games.”
Regardless of the outcome, it certainly is not lost on the organization that he is skilled, hungry to prove himself, and is extremely motivated (he is said to be working out at a field near his parents’ house and is even taking courses at Ryerson University).
In many ways Liam Fraser is the future of Toronto FC. It is less a question of if the organization will do something with him, and more a question of what and when.
“I’ve always wanted to be here—and hopefully it is here where I can get those experiences—but I think this year is going to be an important one for me in learning and developing as a player.”