Under Ryan Nelsen, Toronto FC's Jeremy Hall goes from journeyman to key contributor
TORONTO — He's been one of the bright spots in what has proven to be a difficult start to the 2013 season for Toronto FC.
Jeremy Hall, who has been an MLS journeyman with four clubs during his four previous seasons, has emerged as one of head coach Ryan Nelsen's core players, even as the Toronto FC roster continues to fluctuate. The 24-year-old has started every league match this year and Nelsen has never been shy to highlight his performances and praise his ability to do the dirty work.
“The confidence that the coaches and my teammates have given me has really helped me to elevate my game,” Hall told MLSsoccer.com.
The Tampa, Fla., native was a utility player before this year, manning a few different positions – including right back – for Toronto last year. But in 2013 he has become a fixture in central midfield and lately he's also been given added responsibilities by the TFC coaching staff.
With Toronto struggling to score over the last several weeks, the increasingly confident defensive midfielder has been asked to push forward in recent matches with a focus on making a greater offensive impact.
“We are just trying to get that balance as a team so that it is tough to defend us,” Hall said. “I’ve been able to get myself involved offensively and have been able to get a few passes and shots in. We’ve worked on it in training and watched the video and it’s something that we will continue to work on.”
The signing of Designated Player Matías Laba, who prefers to play deeper in midfield, has also demanded more from Hall up the field.
“Before Matías got here, I think my role was just to sit in front of the back four and try to break plays up,” Hall said. “From looking at the tape from when Matías and I have played together, when we get the ball we don’t want to be side by side, we want to be one in front of the other, whether it is me or him going forward. During the game it switches up – sometimes I am sitting back and sometimes he is.”
It paid off against Philadelphia on Saturday, when Hall played a key part in the lone Toronto goal and also showed off a long-distance cannon shot that came close to beating Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
“I just want to keep us unpredictable," he said. "A shot from distance, a cross into the box, a ball won in their defensive half. I think we did a good job of keeping Philly on their toes. As long as we stay unpredictable and find the back of the net, we’ll be OK.”