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‘A conveyor belt of talent’: Terry Dunfield on TFC Academy’s golden generation

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The current TFC Academy coach joined Waking the Red Weekly to discuss the current status of the academy, some of the young guns, and much, much more.

Vancouver Whitecaps v Toronto FC
Former TFC midfielder and current Academy Coach Terry Dunfield, 23, celebrates his game winning goal against his former team: the Vancouver Whitecaps at BMO Field July 11, 2012.
(Abelimages/Getty)

With twelve Homegrown players on the current first team roster, and six local signings since the start of 2020, it’s no exaggeration to speak of a golden generation for the Toronto FC Academy.

Emerging young players and depth pieces will have opportunities like never before due to the new five substitutes rule, and with the Chris Armas era ushering in a new attacking approach, the physical demands of a constant high press will surely see the full depth of TFC’s squad utilized throughout the season.

It’s an amazing time for Toronto FC’s young guns, and in the latest edition of Waking The Red Weekly presented by Footy Talks, club legend and youth coach Terry Dunfield spoke about how the Academy is setting up the TFC first team for sustainable success.

“First, I’d say that we’re spoiled in Ontario, in the GTA, and in Toronto in particular. We have such an array of talent of various backgrounds and demographics—like we’re just spoiled with how many good young soccer players we have. It’s not just TFC’s academy—it’s all the work within the community from our partnership clubs—the clubs developing the players that then come into our academy.”

“It’s a real collective effort. Look at Ralph Priso, for example. He didn’t join our academy until 14. He spent time at North Toronto. There’s definitely some layers to his development.”

“So, first we just have so much quality in Ontario. Number two, the resources of MLSE, our training ground for example, is phenomenal. I’d say the experience of Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Osorio now, and some of the legacy of guys coming through is important to help really develop our young players.”

“We’ve felt it probably for a little while now. I heard Bill Manning say this morning that nothing’s been given to our kids—each player’s pathway has been a little bit different and they’ve really had to earn that opportunity with Greg Vanney or now Chris Armas. I think it’s coming together nicely.”

“We talk about Luke Singh, Noble (Okello), Ralph, Shaff, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Jayden Nelson, (Jordan) Peruzza—I had to write the list down. They’re all so different and they’re not just making up the roster. I think what we saw that in the first couple of games: these guys can contribute and really make a difference.”

“I was fortunate. There wasn’t an MLS when I was young so if you wanted a career everything led to Europe. And to come through such a good academy like Manchester City —again, you’re just living day to day when you’re in it, but thinking back now it was great. This is partly why I got into coaching: to share some of my experiences with the young guys coming through. But it’s not just me. We’ve got Danny Dichio who also came from that environment. We’ve got coaches that come from teaching backgrounds which is important too. So our academy kids are getting a little bit of everything.

“I remember when I was coming up to the first team when I was young, I was kind of on my own there, and it was about surviving and hanging in and trying to win that shirt and keep it. Whereas now these guys have each other to bounce ideas off and push each other, so I think the ingredients are set up for sustainable success.”

For everything TFC, check out the full episode of this week’s Waking the Red Weekly now, also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify! Kindly like, rate, and subscribe!