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WTR Top 20, No. 7: Jonathan Osorio still has room to grow

The 24-year-old has proven to be a solid MLS midfielder, but can he produce more in 2017?

MLS: MLS Cup Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 season was a milestone year for Jonathan Osorio, with the Brampton-born midfielder becoming the first player in Toronto FC history to represent the club in 100 MLS games. He is closing in on fellow local boy Ashtone Morgan as the most-capped player in club history across all competitions.

Osorio was a fixture for Toronto this past season, appearing in 30 regular season games for the club and then starting five of their six playoff fixtures. This, however, isn’t anything new. Osorio has been consistently starting for the club since 2013, although it’s worth mentioning that his competition for that spot has become much better.

At 24, Osorio has proven to be a good MLS midfielder. Now that he has reached the prime years of his career, however, the question becomes whether or not he can be great. If he wants to take the next step, he has to improve his production.

In 2016, Osorio scored two goals and added five assists during the regular season, netting two more in the playoffs. In terms of combined goals and assists, Osorio has stayed pretty consistent throughout his career, averaging about seven goals a year to which he directly contributed.

This past season, even including the pair of playoff goals Osorio scored, he had slightly below-average production. What makes this disappointing is the fact that Osorio spent a lot of the season as the team’s number 10, and played behind goal machines like Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco.

Maybe it’s proof that Osorio will only ever be a solid role-playing midfielder in MLS. Stretches of his career suggest otherwise, however - most notably the stretch from the final game of the season to the MLS Cup final, during which Osorio scored three goals in seven matches. In that period Osorio’s confidence in front of goal visibly increased.

That wasn’t the case throughout the entire season, however, as Osorio consistently looked reluctant to shoot and struggled in the final third. This is reflected in the 0.8 shots he took per game during the 2016 season according to WhoScored.

Among those who made at least 10 appearances in the centre of midfield, Osorio ranked 58th in shots per game. His finishing could also use some work, but having more confidence in terms of pulling the trigger could go a long way towards increasing his production. When Osorio scored five goals in his 2013 rookie season, his career high, he was taking a shot per game.

Toronto’s midfield as a whole needs to increase its offensive output this season, as they were well behind the top midfields in the league in terms of goals, assists and shots per game. Osorio has the potential in 2017 to be a big part of making Toronto’s midfield more of an offensive threat. Having not brought in an attacking midfielder during the January transfer window, they might be relying on him to do so.

If there’s one early positive sign for Osorio in 2017 it is the fact that he is once again involved with the Canadian national team. Sure, this is likely to see Osorio miss some TFC matches this season due to the Gold Cup. But it also has the potential to help him play in a different environment and for a team where his offensive abilities will be even more important.

Playing for his country has already paid dividends for Osorio, as he scored a goal and added an assist earlier this year against Bermuda. If he can carry that form into the start of the 2017 season it would go a long way towards seeing him make the step from a good MLS midfielder to a great one.