Youth movement has come too soon for Toronto FC

Doneil Henry

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TORONTO — Aron Winter says leadership is something that can’t be taught.

 So when the transfer window opens, players with leadership qualities are what he’ll be after. And he says there will be new players coming.

“You can’t make leaders,” Toronto FC’s head coach said after training on Tuesday. “If you’re a leader, you’re born with it.”

Leadership on the pitch is vital because injuries have forced Winter to use more young players and play them more often than he would prefer at this stage of their development.

Injuries to center backs Adrian Cann and Nana Attakora forced Winter to start 18-year-old central defender Doneil Henry with Ty Harden for three games in a row. While the two have played well together, it was Henry’s foul outside the box in the 89th minute this past Saturday that led to Fredy Montero’s stunning goal off a free kick to give the Seattle Sounders a 1-0 victory.

“It’s possible that they can make some mistakes because it’s part of their age,” Winter said. “I’m not upset about those things. The only thing I hope is that when they make a mistake, they learn from it and that they don’t do it the next time.”

He is looking for leadership qualities in defenders, midfielders and forwards. Alan Gordon provides leadership up front, but has missed seven of the past nine games with a groin injury.

But the biggest need is on the back line. Cann is out for the season, Attakora is about a week away and Dicoy Williams picked up an injury playing for Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

“Almost all our defenders are injured,” Winter said. “I’ve got only Ty and Doneil [in the center] and if something happened with them then I’ve got a problem.”

Acquiring experienced players would help organize the back line, which has been prone to mental lapses. It also would enable the coach to work the younger players into the lineup and help their development by controlling their minutes and letting them adapt to the league.

“Because your roster is small you have to use them more than you had in mind,” Winter said. “You have to be careful of all the young players because the league is very tough and the distances that you have to fly. You can put some young players in an experienced team, but because we don’t have an experienced team and we have a lot of injuries you have to use more of the younger players than you had in mind.”

He hopes to change that.