Lucas Janson must have had quite the first impression of life as a Toronto FC player. His first appearance on the BMO Field pitch was to pick up a winners medal for the 2018 Voyageurs Cup on a rare celebratory night at the stadium this past season.
The harsh realities of Toronto FC’s 2018 campaign would quickly catch up with the Argentine, however, as the club only won four more times in the eleven matches in which he played — twelve if you include that godforsaken Campeones Cup match.
Despite all that, the Argentine has made it clear he wants to be back. The feeling appears to be mutual, if TFC can get him at the right price. Toronto FC management are reportedly looking to extend Janson’s loan, as well as lowering the option to buy from a reported $3.7 million should they want to bring him on long term.
Whether or not they can make headway in those negotiations is probably the biggest determining factor as to whether he is back or not next season. However, it is certainly worth the effort, because the 24-year-old Janson is a player who has already proven himself in some tough circumstances.
After all, as mentioned, Toronto FC were already well on the decline when Janson was acquired. A team that was one of the top offensive units through the first three quarters of the season, TFC created only 1.40 expected goals for per game after Janson arrived. Over a full year, that would be good for 18th in the league.
That sounds like it reflects badly on Janson; after all, the team’s attack did decline once he joined the side. But the club were missing Victor Vazquez and Jozy Altidore for many of those matches so it is probably more so context that make his personal numbers look more impressive.
The moment he hit the field with Toronto FC, Janson was a chance creating machine. He averaged 0.62 expected goals + assists per 96 according to American Soccer Analysis, which puts him third on TFC behind only Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. It’s also the same number as Ignacio Piatti this season.
He mostly did that by creating and taking a lot of shots. The statistics suggest he was a bit unlucky to not have scored more than the four MLS goals (plus two assists) he did for Toronto FC. Among players who played at least 750 MLS minutes, he was actually fourth in the entire league in terms of shots on target per 96, behind only Seba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and David Villa, averaging 1.9.
The location of those shots was also impressive. He was ninth in MLS, according to Whoscored, in terms of shots inside the penalty box per 90. He was also first on the team in terms of shots inside the six-yard box.
Sure, Janson should be finishing more of those chances, but the rate at which he produced them suggests he has the potential to be a truly elite player in MLS. He was able to do it even when the team around him was creating very few chances in general.
There is also plenty of potential for him to continue to grow. When Janson was acquired he said he was more a playmaker than a finisher, but was forced to take on the later role as Altidore struggled to stay healthy. He is also a player who in Argentina showed an ability to beat defenders off the dribble, but only attempted 0.5 per game with Toronto FC again likely because he was usually the furthest player forward.
There are certainly some questions as to where Janson would fit going forward with both Altidore and Giovinco healthy and in the lineup, but he does have flexibility. He could come in off the bench, playing behind them when Vazquez is unavailable or even play out wide.
Ultimately, Toronto FC will have a lot of moving on to do if they want to step back into the MLS elite in 2018. But if the club is able to make it add up financially, Lucas Janson is definitely worth keeping around.