TORONTO – Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Toronto FC defender Doneil Henry turned 19 just six weeks ago.
In TFC years, where changes have come fast and furious since Day One, Henry is practically a veteran.
He made his debut with the Reds in 2010 when he became the club’s first Academy player to sign with the first team. Now the center back is repaying the confidence the coaching staff has shown in him recently by playing with poise and skill at both ends of the pitch.
His past three games in all competitions have been particularly good, and last Saturday he crested new heights with a Man of the Match performance in the team’s 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, the team's first league win of the season.
“We stuck through it together and they've been more confident in me,” Henry said. “I’ve been consistently playing and I just have to continue to do the little things, stay positive, stay focused and composed and just do the simple things, defense first, just pass it off and let other players play.”
"It was a great game for him,” enthused goalkeeper Milos Kocic, who also joined TFC in 2010. “For such a young guy, it's huge for his confidence. It's just the way he was defending [Saturday] was great.”
During last weekend’s match, Henry showed his prowess on both side of the ball. He pressed up in the attacking end on restarts and nearly scored with a header off a corner kick in the second half. A few minutes earlier he scrambled to make a saving tackle as the last man back, keeping the game temporarily scoreless.
“That was a great tackle,” Kocic recalled.
“I just have to do what I can to help my team get three points,” Henry added. “Whether it's attacking the ball on set pieces and defending and being the last man, I was just want to be able to contribute.”
His coaches have noticed.
“Against Vancouver in the game before [the Amway Canadian Championship final], he also played very well,” head coach and technical director Aron Winter said. “He’s making a very good performance and I'm very happy about it because he’s a good player for Canada for the national team sooner or later. He’s still young and he has to become more consistent, not only two or three games. But he’s got everything.”
Henry has played six league games, starting three and scored a goal from a header against Real Salt Lake after entering the game as a substitute.
It’s all part of the maturation process, especially for young players – even ones who’ve been around as long as Henry has.
“The problem with young guys is sometimes when they have a couple of good games, they think they're invincible,” Kocic said. “I’ve known Doneil since I’ve been here, he was just a little guy when he started with us and it’s just that he’s improved that part of his mentality that much more, and he has transferred that to the field.”