Help is on the way for Toronto FC as they attempt to claw their way back into a playoff position.
It probably didn’t come in the form most were expecting. During what has mostly been an ugly summer for Toronto FC there have been fans clamoring for everything from a new centre-back, to a defensive midfielder, to a striker in the Jozy Altidore mold.
New arrival Lucas Janson fits none of those descriptions. The 23-year-old Argentine (he turns 24 next week) arrived from Superliga Argentina side Tigre on a loan deal worth $300,000 USD, with a $3.7 million option to buy per Janson’s parent club.
What Janson will bring is more versatility to the Toronto attack. It’s something Greg Vanney covets across his team: players who can slide into a variety of different roles and give Toronto FC different options tactically.
“[Janson is] versatile to play across an attack either off wing, often cutting in from the left onto his right foot,” says Peter Coates, who is the Editor-in-Chief of Golazo Argentino. “Janson could also play behind or alongside a main striker in a support role.”
What makes Janson such an exciting acquisition for Toronto FC is his ability to create chances. In the Argentine league, he has averaged 1.3 key passes per game, according to WhoScored, as well as recording ten assists during his time with Tigre.
“I spoke with the player on Tuesday and he acknowledged that he is not a goalscorer but he is most effective for assisting his teammates,” says Emmanuel Quispe, who interviewed Janson for Univision.
Janson also told Quispe that he is excited to come to MLS, and believes it to be a good opportunity to prove himself. In an ideal world, he would stay with the club long-term.
While Janson does consider himself to be a pass first type of player, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a threat in front of goal. He has averaged 2.4 shots per game in Argentina, which would put him behind only Sebastian Giovinco on Toronto FC, scoring ten goals.
Before he departed, one of the best attributes of Ager Aketxe’s game was his shooting ability, so replacing that to some degree with Janson is savvy. The more threats the better for Toronto FC.
Another important attribute of Janson’s game is his ability to beat players on the dribble. The 2.6 dribbles per game that the Argentine averaged before his injury in 2016 would lead Toronto FC this season.
Toronto can still tend to struggle against teams in set defensive formations (see the Vancouver Whitecaps this past week) so having another player who is both a threat to shoot and beat players could prove crucial.
Janson, as mentioned earlier, was excellent in both these ways before a major knee injury in 2016. It’s one of the first things everyone talks about with the player, that he has never quite rediscovered his form after that.
“This is perhaps the main question mark, along with whether he adjusts to a new league, because if Janson rediscovers anything like the form he showed in 2016, Toronto have a tremendous asset in their attack,” says Coates.
Adjusting to the league is always a question with international signings, which is why Coates mentions it was prudent of Toronto FC to bring Janson in on loan first. But there are plenty of successful examples of players from the Argentine league who have thrived in MLS, most notably Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Ignacio Piatti and Diego Valeri.
Nobody expects Janson to be quite on that level. What is expected of Janson will be to provide more offensively off the bench, or in rare starts, than Toronto has seen of late from other options. Jordan Hamilton and Tosaint Ricketts have both struggled to make a consistent impact this season.
The club could use an offensive boost down the stretch, and Janson appears well-equipped to provide that spark. After the way things worked out with Aketxe, supporters have a right to be a little skeptical, but the potential is certainly there for this to be a home run signing for Toronto FC.
“In Argentina, he didn’t have to chance to fully [reach his potential], but he has the talent to shine in MLS. Hopefully, he’ll have enough time,” says Quispe.