TORONTO, Canada—In last week’s 1-1 draw with Club León, Chris Armas stuck to his word, fielding a squad full of youngsters in his first match in charge of the club, despite heading into a treacherous environment down in Mexico.
21 year old Jacob Shaffelburg, 18 year old Ralph Priso, 20 year old Noble Okello all made the start for Toronto FC, while 23 year old Erickson Gallardo and Liam Fraser, 20 year old Luke Singh, and 22 year old Griffin Dorsey each made an appearance off the bench.
“Bill Manning and Ali Curtis have done a really nice job bringing young players along and I’ve said that I’m going to play young players—look how many played tonight,” said Armas after last week’s match.
The new TFC head coach has made it clear that the young guns are going to be crucial to the club’s success this season, which is a drastically different tone than what Greg Vanney offered a year ago, where he’d often lean towards experience.
“You’ll see them out there again—not maybe. You’ll see the young players out there again,” Armas told reporters prior to Wednesday’s second-leg clash. “They’re good players. And you guys know just as much as me, there are some guys getting their first minutes—they have not played a lot here. We all recognize that there’s talent, there’s some potential, and everyone wants to see them, but it’s trusting the young players—and we’ll see it again.”
It’s not just as simple as throw the young guns out there and see what they can do, however. There’s a method behind integrating the youth within what is a more experienced side, and that’s something Armas and co. appear to have a strong grip on.
“I think in many ways, if I show them belief, and I give them confidence, and I give them clarity before they step on the pitch, the young players don’t let you down,” said Armas. “You have to understand that setting them up for success is important, to understand surrounding them with certain players and putting them in certain spots on the field, limiting how much information you’re giving them—pregame, postgame, video, arm around—there’s all this stuff that goes into it, but we will need to rely on them heavily.
“Noble Okello, Ralph Priso, Jacob (Shaffelburg), some of these players, they’ll get some minutes. So, their energy, their enthusiasm, their quality, although they’re inexperienced in many many ways, they’ll be essential for us to succeed.”
Kickoff is at 6 pm ET and you can catch the match on OneSoccer.