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The WTR Top 20, No. 18: Jordan Hamilton has plenty of scoring potential

Hopefully we see more of the young Canadian in 2018.

MLS: Toronto FC at New York City FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On relatively few occasions in 2017 were Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore able to play 90 minutes together for Toronto FC. Many of the times one or both of them missed out, I was predicting Jordan Hamilton might slot in up front.

I was wrong every time. Hamilton didn’t get a single MLS start last year, even when it seemed unavoidable. Instead, he made eight league appearances off the bench, and he started three times in the Canadian Championship (helping out with the CanCon requirement).

Tosaint Ricketts was always the de-facto backup striker, of course. Usually when Altidore or Giovinco went down, he got the call, and that was no surprise. What was surprising, though, was that Ben Spencer (and even Jonathan Osorio at times) also seemed ahead of Hamilton in the pecking order.

When TFC visited New York City FC in July during the Gold Cup, Spencer made the starting eleven ahead of Hamilton. The same happened with Toronto’s 5-0 win over the Columbus Crew in May.

The thing is, Hamilton has been unquestionably better than Spencer (and occasionally Ricketts too) in his limited minutes. He made very efficient use of his playing time, with almost twice as many goals per 90 minutes played as anybody on the team:

Goals per 90 minutes

Player Minutes Goals Goals per 90
Player Minutes Goals Goals per 90
Jordan Hamilton 143 2 1.26
Sebastian Giovinco 2057 16 0.7
Tosaint Ricketts 1003 7 0.63
Jozy Altidore 2194 15 0.62
Ben Spencer 179 0 0

Hamilton also scored five goals in nine games with Toronto FC II this past year. Perhaps weirdly, he made significantly more appearances for the senior club in 2016 (18 in total, scoring five goals).

So, I’m not sure what gives. Whether there’s something going on behind the scenes, or Greg Vanney and his staff see something in Spencer that we don’t, there has to be a reason Hamilton couldn’t get into the side more often.

Whatever it is, I’d really like to see Hamilton start a few games next year (although with Altidore perhaps unlikely to do much international duty, opportunities may be sparse). He plays very well with Seba, perhaps better than Ricketts. Hamilton’s best moment of 2017 was this perfectly-executed set play with the Italian:

Seba had apparently told him to make the near-post run, which Hamilton did excellently, holding off Steve Birnbaum the whole way. The flicking header finish was perfect too. This goal was pretty similar to Altidore’s in the 2016 Conference Final, actually; maybe that play is a training-ground favourite of Giovinco’s.

Anyway, at 21 years old, Hamilton still has plenty of time to develop. There’s obviously talent there, and it’s always nice to have a good crop of local players. That said, he’s also good enough to be higher than fourth or fifth in the hierarchy on another MLS team. If Vanney doesn’t see him as part of the bigger picture, I’m not sure the club will hang onto him.

As a homegrown player, Hamilton is a very valuable asset to have around (and an easy one to keep hold of come expansion draft time). He’s played at pretty much every level of the club, and it’s a good look for Toronto if they can integrate academy products into their regular squad.

Hamilton is young and skilled enough to have a future (and a present) at TFC. He’s good in the air and has a knack for finding the net, which is a skill that’s very hard to teach. He could stand to refine his poise on the ball and his passing around the box, though. Maybe that’s what would put him over the edge and get him into the squad more regularly.

He’ll never be as pacey as Ricketts nor as tall as Spencer, but Hamilton’s finishing and vision can definitely rival either of them. As Ricketts advances past the age of 30, Hamilton could start surpassing him sooner rather than later, both for TFC and for the Canadian men’s national team (not like they really need another striker, though).