24 Under 24: Jonathan Osorio's dream year just the start for one of Toronto FC, Canada's great hopes

TORONTO — In a season in which there has been plenty of turbulence for Toronto FC, the feel-good story of the year undoubtedly comes in the form of Toronto native Jonathan Osorio.

The 21-year-old midfielder, who was pretty much an unknown for most Reds observers when he earned a first-team spot during preseason, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in which he has quickly become a key player for Toronto, a vital piece for a rebuilding Canadian national team and one of the emerging young stars in the North American top flight.

“It has definitely been a dream year for me,” Osorio told MLSsoccer.com. “I like to say that it has been the start of a dream because there are a lot of things that I want to accomplish in my career. To say that I have fully reached my dream would be stretching it, but, yeah, everything has been amazing and it has been a great start to my career. It is something that I have to take confidence from while I keep moving forward.”

One reason Osorio came into his first MLS campaign with little fanfare was because many of his formative years were spent far away in Montevideo with the youth team for storied Uruguayan side Nacional. While the training he received with one of the top clubs in South America played a major role in the player that he’s become, the Toronto-born midfielder’s aspirations as a professional player have always been back in his home town.

“Playing at home for TFC was always a dream for me,” Osorio said. “This is the first professional team in Toronto and it is in MLS, which is a good league. I took that opportunity to come and try and out and take advantage of that.”

“The reason I didn’t stay in Uruguay was that I supposed to move up to the [Nacional] reserves the next season and I decided that I wanted to come back and play for Toronto FC,” he explained. “I came back with the intention of getting a trial. Unfortunately, due to injury and other certain circumstances, it didn’t happen right away. By then I had lost my chance to go back to Uruguay, so I stayed here and waited a whole year to get my chance with TFC.”

While waiting for his chance to try out for Toronto FC, Osorio spent time playing with SC Toronto, a semi-professional club in the Canadian Soccer League.

“The only plan I had was to make Toronto FC, but there wasn’t a plan on how to get there,” he said. “I was injured and was rehabbing at the gym and started a chat with someone there about my dream of playing for TFC and he brought me to SC Toronto. He said, ‘Come play with us for now and keep fit.’

“It worked out well. I went there and played under Patrice Gheisar, who is a great guy who helped me a lot. From there I got fit again and I went on a couple of trials to some teams in the USL and came back and joined the TFC Academy. The rest is history.”

Though Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen initially endeavored to bring the youngster along slowly with spot substitute appearances, it didn’t take long for Osorio to impress the coaching staff to the point where he quickly became a permanent part of TFC’s starting XI.

WATCH: Osorio chips entire Red Bulls defense

“I think Jonathan is going to be a very good player,” assistant coach Jim Brennan told MLSsoccer.com. “He was given the opportunity to come into this side and he grabbed it with both hands. He is enjoying playing his football now and he is scoring goals and always looking to get on the ball and get us going, which is what we need. I think he has a bright future in the game.”

But Osorio wasn’t always so assertive with the ball in Toronto. It took time before his natural abilities shone through.

“He came in and he was a little bit shy at first,” midfielder Jeremy Hall said. “But you could just tell that he had the ability just due to his technique and the way that he reads the game. He is very good technically, so he can get himself out of tight spaces with his first touch. Balls come into him and he is able to turn away from defenders and keep pressure off himself.”

Nelsen, meanwhile, has lauded Osorio’s work ethic and confidence in his own abilities. Predictably, it did not take long for his fine play and character to be noticed by the Canada brain trust.

Osorio’s most recent training camp and appearance for Canada came under the leadership of new head coach Benito Floro. While the recent hiring of Floro has buoyed the entire program and all of the players within it, the opportunity to play for the former Real Madrid manager was especially significant for Osorio, who supported Los Blancos growing up.

“Benito not only lived up to my preconceived notions, he surpassed them,” Osorio said. “It was an amazing camp [in Spain] for me and I learned a lot in one week. I’m really excited to play under Benito and I hope I can be called to as many camps as possible.”

One of the hopes in Canada is that the well-pedigreed Spaniard will be able to develop young players such as Osorio to the point that the national team can find its way back to the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

In Osorio’s mind, the future of Canadian soccer is bright and his generation has every opportunity to succeed where previous generations have often fallen just short.

“I wouldn’t say this next generation is different because Canada has always had good players coming up,” he explained. “I think the main difference now is that our young kids have the benefit that the structure in Canada is getting a lot better and, therefore, the players are developing faster. It’s not that the kids are better now than the previous generations, it is just that we are lucky that we now have more developmental programs.”

And certainly Canada and TFC are lucky to have Osorio, as well.