TORONTO, Canada—As the team gets set to open up the 2021 Major League Soccer campaign Saturday vs. CF Montreal, Toronto FC have announced that they have signed centre-back Luke Singh to a first-team contract—for real this time.
“Luke is a talented young player, and we are excited to add him to the first team. He joined our club beginning with the academy, and then he progressed to TFC II. We began to integrate him more into the first team last year, and then this preseason he truly earned his MLS contract,” said Toronto FC General Manager Ali Curtis in a press release. “His training and also performances in Concacaf Champions League were excellent. He has a bright future, and we are looking forward to his continued development.”
Singh, 20, played a stellar 90 minutes at centre-back in his first-career start for Toronto FC in their 2-1 win over Club Leon on Wednesday. Prior to the match, he signed a second four-day short-term agreement in the span of a week from Toronto FC II in accordance with MLS rules stating that clubs may sign players from their USL affiliates on short-term deals for CONCACAF Champions League, Canadian Championship, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and exhibition matches.
Now with a full-time deal under his belt, he’ll be able to represent Toronto FC in MLS competition as well—including Saturday against CF Montreal—something head Coach Chris Armas and Curtis believes he’s ready for.
“There’s a need in different spots in the team always, but part of it is need-based and part of it is that he’s done well and that earned him the trip to Mexico,” said Armas. “He’s been in the system here, they’ve known him for quite some time.
“Ali Curtis has pushed him the hardest, identified this player as we’re talking about depth in the back line, Ali says ‘Chris, trust me, this player is good. I see the way he can defend, I see his habits, I see his top speeds, I see his left foot, right foot, his aerial ability—and he was right. He was right. But you sometimes don’t get to see how that’ll hold up at the highest level until he’s out there, so credit to Ali, he saw this.”
The young defender’s strong play at the back also earned some kind words from teammate Patrick Mullins, who has known for a while what Singh can do thanks to his first-hand look at the centre-back in training.
Mullins on Luke Singh: "We were all just so happy for him because we've been seeing these types of levels that he has been hitting in training & I think we all had a lot of belief in him to step into the lineup tonight. He started the game well & that continued on throughout."— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) April 15, 2021
Singh made his first-team debut in the first leg, entering the match in the 87th minute. His play earned praise from head coach Chris Armas as well as veteran centreback Omar Gonzalez.
The challenge for the defender now will be to repeat his strong performance and build off what was a good first step in his young career.
“We see him (on Wednesday) step in in a big way where the demands for a centre-back might not get harder than that. The challenge will be to repeat that,” said Armas. “The challenge for the young players is to be proud, to be hungry, to keep that hunger, and for now to be able to repeat this everyday: that’s the challenge. The consistency and that ability. For Luke, we do think he is of the level, we do ... we think he’s a player that has shown well enough to be on our roster and we hope it works out, but we think he’s a bright, young talent.”
Singh, after signing with Toronto FC II in March of 2019, spent the remainder of the 2019 season on loan with Danish Superliga club Brøndby IF where he went on to make 24 appearances, scoring two goals for their reserve team.
The 6’2” defender is a graduate of the Toronto FC academy, spending time with the U-18/U-19 squad after originally joining in 2017, making 10 appearances and scoring once.
Born in Brampton, Ontario, Singh has represented the Trinidad & Tobago U-20 team, making 3 appearances at the CONCACAF U-20 Championships in 2018.
Singh has spent time training with the Toronto FC first team last season, as well as in the run-up to the start of the season, with those within the club very high on the potential of the young centre-back.
For what it’s worth, Julian Dunn has been ruled out for at least the next six matches while Chris Mavinga was also ruled out ahead of Saturday with a calf injury.
Kickoff vs. Montreal is set for 2 pm ET Saturday afternoon.