Kyle Bekker and Callum Mallace
USA Today Sports

Ryan Nelsen planning to send young Toronto FC players on offseason loans to help "harden" them

TORONTO — Only eight matches remain for Toronto FC after their Friday night fixture against the New England Revolution (7 pm ET, MLS Live), which means the end of the 2013 MLS campaign is now on the horizon.

However, that likely won’t mean the end of training and playing for a number of Toronto’s key young players.

While TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen often utilized his contacts in England to bring players in on loan earlier in his first season at the helm of an MLS club, he will soon be aiming to utilize those same contacts to send Toronto’s still developing young players out on loan over the course of MLS's offseason.

“That is what will be happening,” Nelsen told “It will be for the development of the players. These guys are learning and developing quickly. If we can quicken up that process, then of course we want to do that.”

According to the TFC gaffer, the Toronto brass will be deliberate and informed when deciding which clubs to send young players to for further seasoning, with Nelsen focusing on clubs that are managed by people that he knows and trusts.

“It will be somewhere that will give them the right balance and where they will learn in the right environments,” Nelsen stated. “I don’t want to send Jonathan Osorio into Bolton. The clubs will match the style of football that they play, so they can be comfortable, complement the team, learn and just experience what it is like [at another club].”

While core young players such as Osorio, Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan and Matias Laba have logged heavy minutes during TFC’s current campaign, Toronto’s first pick (third overall) in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, midfielder Kyle Bekker, has played sparingly, making only four league appearances to date.

In Nelsen’s estimation, TFC supporters should not read too much into the lack of playing time for a young talent who is among a crop of players that the New Zealand native believes will gain plenty from continuing their development in another professional environment.

“I think that growing up and through his college career he has always been the floater and the guy who hasn’t had much responsibility,” Nelsen said of Bekker. “Now we ask all eleven guys to do an all-around job and that often means you don’t get time on the ball and you have to talk and be athletic and cover a lot of ground. When I first came up I didn’t play much my first year. Then in my second and third years I played all the time. It is just about getting hardened and learning the environment.

“Kyle is such a great kid and he has worked so hard,” Nelsen added. “He has all the tools. We really like him and we are invested in him. Trust me, when his time is right – and he knows it because he is very self-aware – his time will come. I think when he does get his opportunity, he won’t let it go.”

In Nelsen’s estimation, offseason loan deals won’t only benefit his players in the technical aspects of the game, but also will allow them to grow as young men away from the pitch, with the young Canadians who have not been part of professional environments outside of Toronto likely having the most to gain in that regard.

“They will 100 percent gain from the experience,” Nelsen said. “They get away from their mum’s cooking and they have to clean their own clothes and do their own stuff. And things will happen to them in life that North America doesn’t expose them to. It is a nice quality of life here and in most of the world it is a bit harder and a bit tougher.”

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