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Official: Toronto FC send Liam Fraser on loan to the Columbus Crew

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In desperate need of playing time, the Toronto native appears to be on his way out, with Columbus looking like the most likely destination.

Toronto FC v New York City FC - MLS Regular Season
Liam Fraser #27 midfielder of the Toronto FC looks at before the 2020 MLS Regular Season match between Toronto FC (Canada) and New York City FC (USA) at BMO Field in Toronto, Canada.
Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images

TORONTO, Canada—In a jam-packed Toronto FC midfield, it looks as though Liam Fraser may be the odd one out. The Canadian international is being loaned out to the defending MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew SC in exchange for $50,000 in General Allocation Money, Toronto FC announced Monday morning.

“Liam is a talented young player with an incredible work ethic,” said Toronto FC General Manager Ali Curtis in a press release. “Development can occur in multiple ways, and we are happy that this presents a solution for Liam to potentially get meaningful first team minutes, and at the same time stay connected to TFC.”

Joshua Kloke of The Athletic was the first to report Fraser’s move to Columbus on Friday.

Fraser, 23, has only played 31 minutes for Toronto in MLS this season, missing time with an ankle injury, but he is clearly not a first-choice midfielder for new Head Coach Chris Armas. His 436 minutes in 2020 under Greg Vanney were also less than expected, with the pandemic of course playing a big factor in that.

Linking up with Columbus, Fraser will join the 2020 MLS Cup Champions and former TFC GM Tim Bezbatchenko. On the outside and now likely at a different club in what may be the last year of his deal, this loan move potentially spells the end of Fraser’s time with Toronto.

Fraser joined TFC’s Academy in 2013 after starting in the Vancouver Whitecaps youth system. The homegrown player went on to play 64 times for TFC II before making then jump to the first team in 2016.

Although he was expected to play his way into the starting lineup, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Alejandro Pozuelo, Marky Delgado and Nick DeLeon have all been ahead of Fraser in the pecking order, keeping him off the pitch. This season, the emergence of young academy products, namely Ralph Priso and Noble Okello, has pushed him even farther down.

Still young, Fraser still has the potential to reach the heights that were expected of him when he joined the first team in 2018, but his limited playing time has stunted his development in Toronto. Had he played regular minutes over the last few campaigns, he could have developed into the midfield linchpin of Toronto’s future.

While he showed promise in his limited appearances, he was never able to push Bradley out of the lineup, and the emergence of younger players, closer in age, has not helped his case.

With Aidan Morris out for the season for the Crew, a deal to Columbus makes sense. But by loaning him to their Eastern Conference foes, the Reds will be aiding one of their direct rivals who will be gunning for a playoff spot in the latter end of the season. While the club will be fine without Fraser, he will be a solid addition to a Columbus side short on depth and in a Concacaf Champions League run that will likely continue past the quarter-final.

However, Canadian supporters won’t be done with the Toronto-born midfielder as he could very well establish himself as an important national team player with regular minutes in Columbus. As for where his career will take him after the Crew, MLS is likely, but a move elsewhere could be in the cards.