Toronto FC Academy product Morgan getting his chance
TORONTO — Ashtone Morgan has been making the most of his chance to play so far. The Toronto-born left back has started Toronto FC’s past two league matches and picked up his first assist in Saturday’s 3-3 draw at D.C. United, a solid start to the youngster’s nascent MLS career.
“It’s a long season, but that’s why you have a deep squad," he said on Monday. “I’ve been on the sides for a bit [but] I’ve been given an opportunity recently. I’m trying to show what I’ve got and try to earn my spot on a full-time basis.”
He played the whole game at DC and also played the 90 minutes on July 30 when TFC posted a comeback 2-2 tie at Portland. Those matches were the 20-year-old’s first two MLS starts after appearing as a substitute in four previous games.
Morgan also started against Real Estelí of Nicaragua on July 27 at BMO Field in the first leg of the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Champions League, and came on for the final 30 minutes in last Wednesday’s second leg. Toronto won each game 2-1 and advanced to Group C of the competition.
The CCL has been good to Morgan, as the TFC Academy graduate started his first senior game for the club in the last edition of the tournament last Oct. 19. Morgan showed his speed and his potential in that match, a 1-0 win over Árabe Unido at BMO Field.
“It was a great experience,” said Morgan, who joined the academy in its inaugural year of 2008. “It was just a dream for me at first and I kept on pushing and kept on grinding.”
The grind has been stop-and-go, but some new arrivals have helped Morgan kick it up a level. The presence of former German international midfielder Torsten Frings has been a big help in particular.
“A great, experienced player,” Morgan said of his new teammate. “He’s been around the game for many years. He just tries to keep me positive, to make me play simple, to just get my confidence and keep building. Every game is getting better and better.”
Helping the young players was one of the reasons that Frings — whose leadership qualities are renowned throughout Germany — was signed as a Designated Player on June 29.
Morgan, who has played for Canada’s Under-20 team, knows he has much work to do.
“Making sure all my crosses are on point, my defensive duties, trying to be sharp all the time,” he said. “I feel as I get more playing time and experience I’ll be getting better and better.”
Toronto FC just returned from a long trip with games at Portland, Real Estelí in Nicaragua and DC. Physically, he says, it was fatiguing, but Morgan is happy to deal with that aspect of a pro career.
“It was long, but at the same time it’s the life,” he said. “It’s our job. You’ve got to be prepared, no excuses.”