TORONTO – No one was happier than Doneil Henry when his friend and Toronto FC teammate Ashtone Morgan was called up to Canada’s senior national team.
The defenders have grown up together as players after graduating from the Toronto FC Academy. They've been teammates on Canada's Under-20 national team, but went from not making the TFC roster at the start of the season, to being unused substitutes, to getting starts in league games.
“Especially at the beginning of the season, we were probably closest on the team,” said Henry (above, left) who, at 18, is two years younger than Morgan.
They now are considered part of Toronto FC’s future with other young players such as 19-year-old midfielder Matt Stinson.
Morgan played 19 minutes as a substitute in his senior-team debut in Canada’s 7-0 defeat of St. Lucia last Friday. Canada will take a 3-0 record in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches into Tuesday’s game against Puerto Rico at BMO Field (7 pm ET, Rogers Sportsnet One).
While Morgan has shown well recently, flashing his speed and crossing ability from left back while starting seven of the past nine league games, Henry was thrown into action earlier because of a series of injuries at the center back position. He started four consecutive league games from June 11 to June 25.
“I don’t regret anything that happened in that period,” Henry said. “It taught me to be more focused and just being ready and that you can be called upon at any time at any point.”
Since then, the team has undergone a changeover and his playing time has been reduced to one start and two appearances as a substitute as he continues to learn. He has nine league appearances, including five starts, to go with five CONCACAF Champions League appearances.
“You can always play better,” Henry said. “I’m not going to say I’ve played well, but being young, being consistent is key. I think I’ve done decent and I just want to keep improving.”
The Reds are out of the playoffs and have two league games left, but still have a chance to advance out of Group C in the CCL with a win at FC Dallas on Oct. 18.
“It’s kind of sad because we have a great team now and the season is ending,” Henry said. “But we know for sure next year, if we have the same players and the same mentality about winning, we should be doing well. I’m really looking forward to next season.”