TORONTO — Fresh off his first three MLS matches against Vancouver, Kansas City and Montreal, English winger Hogan Ephraim has been impressed with what he has seen of the North American top flight so far.
“I did not know a lot about Major League Soccer [before joining Toronto FC]. I spoke with the manager [Ryan Nelsen], who I obviously played with at Queens Park Rangers, and he had very positive things to say about it,” Ephraim told MLSsoccer.com. “Since I have been over here I have found everything to be very good, from the facilities to the coaches to the medical staff to the quality of football. Everything has been top-class and hopefully that continues.
"It's a good standard. I didn't know what to expect coming out here. I didn't think it was going to be easy and I knew it was going to be a tough standard. I just didn't know what style it would be. I've been impressed so far.”
The 24-year-old officially joined Toronto FC on loan from English Premier League club Queens Park Rangers at the end of last month. Coming from a world-renowned soccer hotbed in England, Ephraim has already come away impressed with his experience in his first Canadian Derby after playing 90 minutes in TFC's 2-1 defeat to the Impact on Saturday.
“I thought the traveling fans were brilliant. I was kind of surprised by how many turned up because it is a very long drive [to Montreal]," Ephraim said. "The atmosphere was fantastic. It is a beautiful stadium. I also thought the pitch was terrific, the best surface we have played on this season."
While the left-footed attacker has noticed some differences between how the game is played in the North America versus the style of play often delivered in England, he believes those differences ultimately play to his strength as a player.
“Football is football at the end of the day, but I would say that what I have noticed -- and what a lot of the boys have told me -- is most teams here try and play football on the ground," he said. "Starting from the goalkeeper, they tend play out through the back. In England it is quite different. You have many teams that play very direct and go back to front. For me, I prefer the ball on the ground. Sometimes in England you will play games as a midfielder and end up having a sore neck from looking up in the sky all the time to look for the ball. It suits me out here and I'm enjoying it.”
Ephraim, who has represented England at the U-16, U-17, U-18 and U-19 levels, was also quick admit that it also doesn't hurt your adjustment to a new team and league when your new manager is someone who was your teammate just a few weeks ago.
“Of course, it makes a difference,” he said. “Ryan knows how I like to play and he is trying to get me to play how he wants me to fit into the team as well. It helps having him here.”