24 Under 24: #21 Matias Laba, Toronto FC

21. Matias Laba

Pos: M | Toronto FC | Age: 21

It speaks volumes of Laba's ability that he finds himself on this list despite only recently arriving in MLS. After signing with Toronto FC in late April as a Young Designated Player, the 21-year-old Argentine midfielder has already made a name for himself with his technical qualities, ability to read the game and occasional runs forward. A former Argentina Under-20 international, Laba boasts plenty of confidence and is silky smooth on the ball, traits that paved the way for him to start in each of the 16 games he played this season before injury ended his campaign prematurely. Still, he'll be back in 2014 as a key cog for Toronto FC, a club that considers Laba a massive part of the future.

What TDs and coaches like: "He's what I'd call a lively player, fiery player. ... I think he brings tenacity, aggressiveness. ... Laba is excellent at reading the game. He's almost like a defender in front of the backline for Toronto. ... He's good on the ball. He gets rid of it quick and makes good forward passes. ... We'll see more of what he's about next year. Between Toronto's year and the injury, he's still a bit of a wildcard, but the talent is there."

Where TDs and coaches want improvement: "It's tough to judge him on the negative side, since he hasn't played a lot since he's been here, but I guess it would be the mental side of the game. It's a tough situation to be in up there when you're not winning games. So maybe the mental side of the game and understanding the league would be his drawback. ... I think he's probably got to adjust to the speed and physicality of the league. ... He definitely plays hard, but game in and game out this league is played at a different tempo. That will be an adjustment for him."

Opta Says: Matias Laba leads all players under the age of 24 with 5.0 tackles per 90 minutes during 2013, more than 1.5 tackles per 90 better than any other player.
 

Tale of the Tape
Last Year in 24U24: N/A
Castrol Index (as of 9/16/13): #88

2013 Stats
Matches played: 16
Matches started: 16
Goals: 1
Assists: 0

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