TORONTO – It didn’t take long for rookie defender Aaron Maund to learn what Toronto FC opponents discovered last year: Diminutive forward Joao Plata is a handful.
Marking Plata has been part of Maund’s early education – the transition from college player to professional – and a lot of it has to do with coping with speed.
“I’m kind of on the tall side, so Plata and Reggie Lambe, they’re short and quick and you have to anticipate where they’re going,” said Maund, who was taken in the first round in last month’s MLS SuperDraft. “It’s tough, but I think I’m getting used to it, getting better at it.”
Manger and technical director Aron Winter took the 21-year-old center back, who played four years at Notre Dame, with Toronto’s second pick in the draft and the 12th overall.
Winter likes Maund’s potential but says it will take time for the first-year pro to adjust. Maund – listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds – is eager to learn.
“Physically, I think it’s more of the same,” he said on Friday about the level to which he finds himself adapting. “The difference is speed of play and then mentally is what’s tough. You have to think quicker, be smarter with your movements and where you’re moving the ball as well. Those are probably the biggest changes for me.”
Maund has plenty of athleticism and also showed an ability to read the game and anticipate at the college level. He also captained the Fighting Irish during his senior season.
“Aaron is doing very well,” Winter said. “He’s got very good skills. When you go from college to MLS, there are things to deal with: the level, the travel, the different way to play, a new environment and city. But in the end, he has the quality to be a very good defender. I can’t say he is going to play now.”
Still, like any young player, the defender still has “a lot” to work on, according to Winter. Maund said some of the more experienced players have helped him adjust.
“You try to keep it simple at first and then try to get your feet under you and keep progressing like that,” Maund said. “I think that’s the best way to get accustomed to the speed of play. In practice, I match up against [striker Danny] Koevermans a lot, and he’ll bring me aside and tell me, 'This is what you have to do.'
“It’s very helpful. I look to anybody who is willing to help out, to give some advice. I’m all ears.”