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Naming an all-Canadian Toronto FC squad

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In anticipation of the 2021 Voyageurs Cup Final, here’s a look at a Toronto FC team with 100% Canadian Content.

NYCFC Vs Toronto FC Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

The Voyageurs Cup, 2021 edition, is going to be awarded on Sunday. We’re still waiting for the 2020 final to be played, which by all accounts, is absolutely hilarious. Now, the rules of this competition means that each team needs to start at least three Canadian players, but imagine if teams had to field an all-Canadian 11 for the Final! Here’s a taking at a nostalgic look at an all-Canadian starting 11 for Toronto FC.

Before you ask, I’m only including Canadians who made an appearance for the senior Toronto FC club. There have been many Canadians who have been in the Toronto FC system, but never made an appearance for the first team. Some notable CanMNT players include Mark-Anthony Kaye, Tyler Pasher, and Theo Corbeanu. Also, remember TFC III? Famous (non) goal scorer Cyrus Rollocks played there!


Formation

4-4-2 is too boring, unless you’re Sam Allardyce. Toronto FC went with the 3-5-2 in the 2017 season and look what happened – they won effing everything! Also, here’s a good explanation (Thanks, Olli): The Case for a Three Man Defense. Also, both Canada and Toronto FC have had a dearth of defenders, so it’s an easy choice. For this formation, I’m classifying the wing backs as their own category, as the style requires play up the wings of the pitch. Richie Laryea is a perfect example of the wing back.

Toronto FC’s All-Canadian lineup

Keepers

Since there have only been a few Canadian keepers who have played for TFC, the selection was pretty easy for a starter. Greg Sutton played 39 games for TFC from 2007-2009, registering seven clean sheets! In an era where TFC was not the greatest team, it’s an impressive statistic. Shout out to Srdjan Djekanović, who played for Toronto FC in 2007. Here’s a fact for the pub quiz - Djekanović was the first player in Canadian Soccer history to play for the Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto FC, and the Montreal Impact. Let’s not forget, for bench considerations, Kyriakos “Kenny” Stamatopoulos (6 appearances) and David Monsalve, who made one appearance as the MLS emergency keeper.

Defenders

Similar to the national team, Toronto FC has been a little short on defenders from Canada. So, the selection for the back three was a bit easier. Jim Brennan was an obvious choice – Toronto FC’s first ever player signing, first ever captain, and made 93 appearances for TFC.

Next, I have to include Brampton’s own Doneil Henry, who played 70 games for TFC, 21 of which were on loan through a super-secret deal with Apollon Limassol in Cyprus. Doneil apparently became a Cypriot restaurateur out of the deal. Also, Henry finished his TFC career with 18 yellow cards, which averages out to a yellow card every 3.8 games, or a 0.26 coefficient, which puts him in the median range for MLS defenders. The highest coefficient in MLS history, 0.5, was recorded by Inter Miami defender Leandro González Pírez in 2021. As a defender, it’s expected that Henry will be booked a bit more than others. Also, he only received two red cards, which I though was a lot higher than the actual number. So, maybe our collective memory was a bit to harsh on Doneil?

As an aside, I read a fascinating study regarding yellow and red cards around the world in the Football Observatory Monthly Report: Global Study of Penalty Cards in Professional Football.

Orangeville’s Nana Attakora makes the starting 11 as the third defender. Attakora played for TFC from 2008-2011, which was during a time that the club didn’t see a lot of success. Although Nana played on a team that didn’t win a lot, he demonstrated that he was a competent defender, as TFC averaged 1.4 goals against per game during his tenure.

Honourable mention goes to Adrian Cann, who would definitely be in the lineup if it was:

a) 4-4-2 or,
b) a modelling competition.

Wing Backs

They’re not quite midfielders, but they’re attacking defenders – they’re wing backs. Unfortunately, Justin Morrow is American, so I have to leave him out of the selection. On the left, the Nasty Left Back, Ashtone Morgan, made 168 appearances for TFC, which puts him 5th on the list for all-time appearances. He didn’t score a lot of goals, but certainly set up a lot of them with some great crosses

Toronto FC v Montreal Impact
Richie will be on the right wing on Sunday providing headaches for Montreal defenders.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

On the right, Richie Laryea is firmly entrenched as a starter in Toronto FC’s current lineup. Thank you Orlando City for not picking up his contract option in 2018. Also, he has some intangible qualities – he’s one of those players that seem to make the game more interesting. Watch for him on Sunday in the Voyageurs Cup, as I guarantee he’ll get some of the Montreal players worked up.

Midfielders

Two out of the three were easy selections Jonathan Osorio and Julian De Guzman. If you’ve watched Toronto FC at all, you know how good Osorio has been for years. He’s a TFC legend.

Julian De Guzman was Toronto FC’s first Designated Player, and the only Canadian DP to play for TFC. (De Rosario signed as a DP for DC United, not TFC). He played 78 games in a TFC jersey from 2009-2012 before being trade to FC Dallas for “one of the best finishers in the Modern Era”, Andrew Wiedeman. Apparently Wiedeman is only happy when it rains.

The third one was a bit tricky, as there have been a number of Canadian midfielders who have been great additions to TFC. I chose Will Johnson on the basis of one goal – the 2016 Voyageur’s Cup final, the second leg, against the Whitecaps in Vancouver. It’s one of those moments that will go down in Toronto FC lore, as Johnson scored the ever-important away goal in the last minute of injury time to secure the Voyageurs Cup.

Here’s a look:

Consequently, Johnson broke his leg on that play, colliding with keeper David Ousted and suffering a tibial plateau fracture. Johnson ended up being out for and missed the rest of He left TFC after the 2016 season.

I excluded Terry Dunfield, but only by a slim margin. He and his sock tassles were great in TFC’s midfield for a couple of years, but he did play for the Whitecaps before coming to Toronto. So, that’s a knock against him. Also, he left TFC to go back to play for Oldham. No hard feelings Terry – we love you on OneSoccer.

There are lots of potential Canadian midefielders like Ralph Priso, Noble Okello, and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty that will be great in the near future, but need a bit more time to establish themselves with the senior club.

Forwards

So, in the current Men’s National Team iteration, there are around 236 strikers available for selection. Luckily, or unluckily (depending on your perspective), Toronto FC did not have that many Canadian forwards that featured for the senior team.

The first choice was an automatic one – Dwayne De Rosario. DeRo shaked and baked his way to scoring 33 goals in 98 appearances in a TFC shirt. He also was very good at signing giant imaginary autographs for the crowd – that’s what he was doing, right?

The second forward was a tough call, as Tosaint Ricketts, Jordan Hamilton, and Ayo Akinola were front-runners. (If Chad Barrett was Canadian, he would have been my no. 1 choice.) I deferred to statistics on this one, as goals per game are an easy metric:

Toronto FC Goals Per Game

Player Appearances Goals Goals Per Game
Player Appearances Goals Goals Per Game
Ayo Akinola 46 14 0.30
Dwayne De Rosario 98 33 0.34
Jordan Hamilton 66 15 0.23
Tosaint Ricketts 66 16 0.24
For Comparision:
Jozy Altidore 173 79 0.46
Sebastian Giovinco 142 83 0.58

So, Ayo wins out on goals per game. That being said, I would definitely include Jay Hams and Tos coming off the bench to poach a bunch of goals. Also, Jozy and Seba’s strike rates are elite - in MLS and many other leagues around the world.

So, there’s the all-Canadian starting 11 in preparation for Sunday’s Voyageurs Cup. What do you think? Let us know in the comment section.