TORONTO — Doneil Henry was supposed to represent the future of Toronto FC, but he’s suddenly a very big part of the present as well.
Henry, 18, earned the first two starts of his young MLS career in five days’ time this week and acquitted himself well in each to help ease some of the team’s concerns after losing regular center backs Adrian Cann and Nana Attakora to injury.
Henry, who hails from Brampton, Ontario, and still takes high school courses, took both starts in stride.
“I see it as getting into the squad, and my debut,” he said. "I just wanted to impress my city and my coaches and tell them that I’m capable of doing my job."
Even before his first career start last Saturday in a 2-2 draw with the LA Galaxy, Henry had already carved a special niche in TFC history. He became the first player to graduate from the Toronto FC Academy when he signed a professional contract late last August.
“It shows there’s hope for the other young guys, too,” he said. “ If I can make it anyone else can make it, as long as they have the right head and mind set.”
Henry nearly made the most of his start against New England on Wednesday by earning his first MLS goal, but his 17th-minute header off a Nathan Sturgis corner kick drifted over the crossbar. The Reds settled for a scoreless draw.
According to Henry, his progress is a direct result of the support given by teammates like Attakora, Cann, Dicoy Williams and Ty Harden.
“All the center backs, they’re all leaders in the back and they helped me with everything because they’ve been there for a long time and have more experience,” he said. “It’s all in the developing stage right now.”