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Should Tosaint Ricketts always be the backup striker?

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Ricketts is good, but is the future better?

Toronto FC v Columbus Crew SC - Eastern Conference Finals - Leg 1 Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

In July 2016, 30-year-old Tosaint Ricketts was signed to Toronto FC via a free transfer. The pacey striker was playing in Turkey previously but left the team (Boluspor) as he was not getting paid. Ricketts has played all over the world, struggling for stability as he keeps getting moved along for various reasons.

When he joined midway through 2016, I was skeptical. Toronto FC had traded Dominic Oduro in the 2015 offseason. He was another fast striker who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. I thought that Tosaint Ricketts’ move to Toronto would play out the same way.

At the time in 2016, Ricketts filled a depth problem in Toronto FC’s striker position, as our main backup at the time was Jordan Hamilton. He was okay, but perhaps not the impact sub that the Reds were really gunning for as a backup to Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco.

This was a fairly risky move for TFC, as Tosaint had never played in MLS before, despite him being from Canada, in which MLS is the usual stepping stone to Europe for most Canadian and American players. But this risk played off very quickly. In just 399 minutes Ricketts scored four goals, making him average a goal every 100 minutes.

In the 2017 season, his production slowed down, but he remained a solid option from off the bench. Ricketts recorded seven goals and one assist, in 22 appearances, totalling 1003 minutes. This works out to scoring about every 143 minutes, which is good for a backup striker.

Ricketts also got in a hot run of form in the middle of the season, where it seemed he could net goals out of absolutely nothing at times. Take Toronto FC’s 2-1 win over Columbus Crew SC in May 2017, where he netted both of the shots that he got in the 50 minutes that he played on the pitch. Toronto FC played abysmally the whole game, yet somehow he scored 2 goals out of seemingly thin air.

But as Toronto FC have five strikers (Giovinco, Altidore, Spencer, Hamilton, and Ricketts) on the depth chart, questions have to be asked whether they should continue looking to Ricketts as the undisputed backup to two of the best strikers in the league — or if some of the younger players like Ben Spencer and Hamilton should be given time in 2018. They had limited time in 2018, spending just 321 minutes altogether — which is under a third of what Ricketts played last year. So it may be time to give the lads a chance.

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

I know Toronto FC are looking for short-term success as it attracts fans, but they should also look to develop their youngsters in the process so that we have a bright future ahead of us. This does not mean that the Reds’ front office should trade Ricketts, but they should consider playing Ben Spencer and Jordan Hamilton more when Giovinco or Altidore cannot play.

Besides, it’s not like Hamilton and Spencer are terrible players. They may not be as good as Ricketts, but they are still able to hold their own against some MLS sides. Hamilton scored two goals and got one assist in 142 minutes, while Spencer recorded two assists in the 179 minutes that he played last year.

Although I believe Spencer’s work rate and heading capabilities for his height are questionable. I still think he should get another shot, along with Hamilton since they are both with the first team and have certainly shown some positive attributes about them in the time that they have been here.

But regardless, even with my argument regarding Tosaint Ricketts’ time on the pitch, he still has a great impact whenever he plays. He also has a great influence in the playoffs (he scored two goals and got one assist in the 2016 MLS playoffs) when Toronto FC need a goal, as a pacey striker can often terrorize defences. He’s even got decent technical skills to go along with that.

So should Tosaint Ricketts get a smaller portion of playing time in 2018 to give TFC’s youth more? Or should Toronto FC continue to look to the player who has proved his worth the most in “the 6”?