TORONTO — Justin Braun and Darel Russell scored their first goals for Toronto FC amid the fireworks of Toronto’s thrilling and dramatic 2-2 draw with Dallas on Saturday, but a breakthrough performance on the defensive side could mark a more important milestone for both TFC and the United States national team.
Central defender Gale Agbossoumonde made his Major League Soccer debut on Saturday, and logged a confident 90 minutes that could be his first real step to one day contributing to the USMNT.
When Toronto FC acquired Agbossoumonde via a special lottery last December, the general consensus among North American soccer pundits was that the Reds were getting a young player with immense talent and potential, but he needed to get find consistent minutes in order to mature.
Fast forward several months and the 21-year-old defender is feeling at home in Toronto, and is fully confident that his new club is the right one for him as he aims to realize his considerable potential.
“I feel like this is my home. I had three years in Europe and it didn’t go that well and I was bouncing around. I’m very happy to be here,” Agbossoumonde said. “It has been great here at TFC. It’s not just having a coach who excelled at the top level playing my position, but also having players here like Danny [Califf] and Darren O’Dea who I can play next to. Just watching them and being able to learn from them, it has been great experience so far and I am very comfortable here.”
With Califf unable to play because of illness, Agbossoumonde partnered with O’Dea in his first MLS start against Dallas on Saturday, with the MLS debutant and the veteran Republic of Ireland international holding down the fort well during a match in which Dallas legitimately threw everything but the kitchen sink at them.
“It helps me greatly. I’m comfortable next to him and confident that he is going to help me,” Agbossoumonde said. “I just listen to what he says and then follow his lead. He is a good leader and I just try to do the best that I can.”
Listed at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Agbossoumonde brings an indelible mixture of height, pace and strength to Toronto’s backline. It is those athletic qualities that have US supporters salivating about the possible impact that the 2010 U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year could one day have at the international level.
To his credit, Agbossoumonde would prefer to be known more so as a great defender than as a fantastic athlete.
“I try not to rely on my athleticism. I try to read the game more because athleticism will only take you so far,” Agbossoumonde said. “I’m trying my best not to use my athleticism to cover myself.”