Richie Laryea’s transfer to Toronto FC on loan from Nottingham Forest was a move that thrilled the TFC faithful, not just because of the return of one of their beloved stars, but also due to the arrival of an established, tenacious right-back.
As the Reds continue to prop up the Eastern Conference table and edge closer to the playoff spots, Laryea’s return to Toronto could not have come at a better time.
In his first two games back at the club, Laryea has provided three assists, one in the 4-3 away win against Nashville SC, and two during TFC’s 3-1 victory over the Portland Timbers at BMO Field.
Laryea --> Osorio— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 14, 2022
That @CanadaSoccerEN connection for #TFCLive. pic.twitter.com/pb249xL43U
The Canadian international turned provider for his compatriot Jonathan Osorio on two occasions, in addition to playing the final pass to Federico Bernardeschi for the Italian’s goal against the Timbers.
Beyond those goal contributions, the Toronto native has also been a force to be reckoned with on the right flank, both offensively and defensively.
His bombing runs forward have contributed to a Toronto attack that has scored seven goals in their last two MLS fixtures. For both club and country, Laryea’s fearlessness in going forward and taking on defenders in the final third has proven pivotal with regards to creating significant goal scoring chances.
Against Portland, Laryea completed three dribbles while also recording 44 completed passes out of 45. Moreover, his energy on the offensive end was a vital contributor to the Reds’ success on the night.
It is also common knowledge around the league that Laryea is not afraid to get stuck into tackles. His dogged nature in defence will be paramount for the Reds for the duration of the season and beyond.
“Richie is very strong,” said Chris Mavinga when asked about his teammate following the win over Portland.
“When you pass to him, you’re confident he won’t lose an easy ball. In a tough situation, you can give him the ball quickly and he’ll give a good pass forward.”
Head coach Bob Bradley also spoke on how he was not surprised at how quickly Laryea has adapted to life back in MLS.
“Richie knows players here. Richie has the quality so that as soon as he gets here, guys like Lorenzo and Fede and others can see what he’s all about right away. Easy to play with Richie. Gives the ball at the right time and knows what he wants to do. When you have good players it doesn’t take long for other good players to size them up. They are good at that.”
For most of the first half of the season, TFC was plagued by a lack of urgency, something which cost the Reds results, and in turn, invaluable points. Now, with a player with Laryea in the squad, Toronto is able to play a more dynamic style of football, as seen by the team’s performances against both Nashville and Portland.
“You get a sense that guys feel good about what’s going on,” said Bob Bradley.
“It’s a good feeling when you come in and not only win but to feel like things are improving, feel like the ball moves faster, and feel like we are defending as a unit better.”
Prior to Laryea’s arrival, Kosi Thompson was used as the Reds’ starting right-back. While the youngster showed glimpses of promise in the role, Thompson is in fact a midfielder, a position he has yet to prominently play in since making the jump from TFC II to the first team during the offseason.
There is no doubt that Thompson should be lauded for his efforts at right-back, but as Toronto pushes towards the playoff spots, experience in all areas of the field has become a priority for Bill Manning and Bob Bradley, hence the addition of Laryea.
Thompson, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, and Kadin Chung are players who are very much still establishing themselves within the first team. In spite of not playing significant minutes, the opportunity to learn from the likes of Laryea and fellow distinguished full-back Domenico Criscito will greatly benefit their development in the long run.
Lorenzo Insigne and Bernardeschi stand out as Toronto FC’s star signings in 2022, but there is indeed an argument that Laryea’s welcome return to his hometown club may well be as important to the success of the side for the remainder of the season.
Shoring up the Reds’ backline was a necessity over the summer transfer window, and Laryea’s instant impact is evidence that his second stint at the club will pay dividends as TFC continues its exciting rebuild.
As of August 15th, 2022, Richie Laryea has made 85 appearances for Toronto FC, scoring nine goals and providing 15 assists.