Toronto FC Homegrown Player Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty is regarded as one of the premier young talents in Major League Soccer, one who could join the wave of academy-developed outbound transfers.
Before that chance comes, the 17-year-old spent the offseason on training stints with Arsenal and Liverpool in England, as well as Club Brugge in Belgium. And those experiences leave him desiring a chance to prove himself against the world’s best.
“The biggest thing for me was to see the young players around the world, around my age in and around the first team,” Marshall-Rutty said earlier this week, adding he was inspired by seeing Liverpool's Mo Salah. “Those are my dreams to play at the highest level, so just to see where they’re at and how far I need to get and how their habits and try and improve and implement them into my game.”
The Brampton, Ontario native’s remarks came before a report from TSN’s Matthew Scianitti said that he’s valued by TFC at $20 million, citing conversations with the player’s agent. Marshall-Rutty, who signed with Toronto at age 15, last October placed on The Guardian's Next Generation list that honored the world's best young players born in 2004.
Enhancing the buzz is how Marshall-Rutty is poised to transition to right back for the Reds during the 2022 MLS season, with the departures of Auro (loan to Brazil’s Santos) and Richie Laryea (transfer to England’s Nottingham Forest) opening up the spot. Plus, new head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley is renowned for developing young talent.
There’s bound to be an adjustment period, but Marshall-Rutty is confident that he’ll handle it in stride – drawing inspiration from several of Canada’s brightest talents.
“I feel like modern-day football, the adjustment from winger to fullback isn’t that different because the way we play, sometimes I find myself out wide like I would as a winger,” Marshall-Rutty said. “Maybe the biggest thing is just the defensive part but I enjoy running a lot, so it really wasn’t a big change for me. It’s also good to add it to my game, make myself a [more] versatile player.
“But like I said, players like Alphonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan – those are wingers who turn into fullbacks. So it’s good for me and good for my development.”
Both players are MLS development success stories. Davies joined German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich in 2019 from Vancouver Whitecaps FC for up to $22 million. As for Buchanan, he went from the New England Revolution to Club Brugge this winter for $7 million.
Buchanan and Davies are also key members of Canada’s quest to reach the Qatar 2022 World Cup, which they’re on the verge of doing in sitting atop the Concacaf Octagonal standings. Marshall-Rutty could possibly join them if his 2022 season becomes a true breakout year, having already received a senior-team camp invite from head coach John Herdman before his soon-to-come debut.
“As a young Canadian, it’s just so [incredible] and it’s a dream come true to see my country doing so well and almost qualifying themselves for a World Cup,” Marshall-Rutty said. “And to know we have another one in 2026 makes young kids like me want to work even harder. Obviously, Qatar is a goal and a dream of mine but I just want to go into this season focused on Toronto FC and hopefully try and break into the national team. But I’m just super proud of the team.”
In the meantime, this year is about growth – and a potential transfer – for one of Canada’s brightest talents. He’s featured in 12 games the last two seasons.
“I’m fully focused for MLS 2022,” he said.