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The WTR Top 20, No. 6: Alex Bono took the starting job and ran with it

Can Alex Bono duplicate his 2017 season in 2018?

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Toronto FC Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Bono was drafted sixth overall by Toronto FC in 2015, and they may have been expecting him to be a number one goalie, but they probably didn’t think he would be this good this fast. The American has turned out to be all they could have hoped for and dreamed of when they drafted him.

Thrust into the starting role early last season after Clint Irwin went down with injury, Bono went on to be the starter the rest of the season and he never looked back. The 24-year-old American is now getting recognition on the international stage as well as he was named to the USMNT camp in January for a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He has become a household name and fan favorite — just ask Vic Rauter, who lets out a trademark “Bonooooooooooo” after every save. Bono was a major contributor in Toronto’s Cup run as he made big stop after big stop when TFC needed him the most. Bono could be higher on this list on most teams, but hey, when you have Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, and Victor Vazque,z you can see why he is where is.

Bono is quite happy with staying in the background and letting the stars go about their business. He can sit back like a quiet assassin and step up and be the star when he needs to.

The more the kid plays the more he seems to get better. Still only 24 years old, he has a lot of time for himself to grow into a great shot stopper. If Bono can get any better then he already is, other MLS teams better watch out because it’ll be another long season (if they didn’t expect that already). With this newfound experience playing in big games, if Toronto makes it to the playoffs and MLS Cup finals again, expect Bono to be just as good if not better.

Bono has the ability to steal a game for Toronto with his athleticism and his solid position and soccer IQ in net. If not for him, TFC may not have won the MLS Cup this past season. Bono made two game-saving stops in the playoffs, one against New York on Bradley Wright-Phillips and the other on Columbus Crew defender Harrison Afful — have a look for yourself, and relive these beautiful saves.

These are the type of stops big game goalies make, like Martin Brodeur used to in the NHL. His ability to make stops in the key moments or when Toronto needs them most make him someone whom the Reds can count on going forward.

2017 was the best season in Toronto FC history in many ways, and Bono had a season for the record books himself. He ended the season with a franchise-record 19 wins, and he finished in a three-way tie for second in MLS with 10 shutouts on the season. He allowed 32 goals and only 1.14 goals against per game.

With the addition of Gregory van der Wiel, Toronto’s defence should now be much stronger, which means fewer goals against. Bono will have to be sharper, though, as his workload may be a little less than it was last season. But hey, there’s also te Champions League — look out Colorado, you’re up first.

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto has a potential star on their hands and they’ll be served right to try and retain him from any advances from European teams. Bono brings a lot of ability and at a young age, and having a player of his ability between the sticks for a few more years will only mean good things.

If Bono can continue his run of form into this season then Toronto will be exceptionally hard to be beat as the season progresses further and further. With the grind of Champions League action, they’ll need him sharp and ready for the challenge.

Much has been said about the three stars Bradley, Giovinco, and Altidore and even Vazquez, but Bono was probably the most important player in many games this past season. Going forward Toronto will be leaning on him again especially with the long season TFC is about to have.