ORLANDO, Fla. – Ashtone Morgan grew up in downtown Toronto, immersed in the sporting culture of the city. And of course, that means he remembers going to the Rogers Centre as a youngster, back when it was called The SkyDome.
“I used to go with my dad to watch the Blue Jays play, and all I remember is that it is big, really, really big, and the atmosphere was pretty great,” the Toronto FC defender said on Wednesday at the team’s hotel. “When I was younger, I used to play baseball sometimes; I used to play baseball and soccer.”
Soccer was his passion, though, and he has done well at it. And it will be soccer that takes him to the Rogers Centre next Wednesday.
Morgan will have a personal rooting section of more than 30 in attendance when TFC play the LA Galaxy in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. His parents, Collette and Wayne, and other family members will attend. And he reeled off a list of friends he has known since kindergarten who also will be there.
A sellout of about 45,000 is expected, about twice as many held by the Reds’ usual home, BMO Field.
“I can’t wait to see the atmosphere; it’s going to bring like a European vibe to our game because we’re going to have a sold-out stadium,” Morgan said. “It’s going to be really electric. You’ll see a lot of red around and people cheering, screaming, and you want to see a good show.”
But the 21-year-old left back knows that the environment cannot take away from the task of trying to beat the MLS Cup champions.
“I think you’ve just got to treat it as every other game,” Morgan said. “It’s such a big venue, but you still have to keep your focus and concentration and get the job done. You can’t let things interfere with that. It is my job at the end of the day.”
His job could be made a bit more difficult by the playing surface, which is FieldTurf. Morgan, who won the starter’s spot on the back line after coming out of the TFC Academy, is used to the natural grass of BMO Field.
“I don’t prefer it, I don’t favor it,” Morgan said of the FieldTurf. “I’d rather play on grass, but you have to play the game somewhere, and if it’s on turf, so be it. Let’s do the job.”
TFC trained on Field Turf for the first couple of weeks of preseason in Oakville, Ontario, before going to Orlando in mid-February to train and play on grass. They competed in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic and will play Vancouver in the final on Saturday.