TORONTO – The 2014 season was a journey of growth for Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund.
That was how the Xavier University product described his rookie campaign during the team’s year-end locker room clear-outs. Drafted 10th overall by TFC in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, Hagglund featured in 25 games for the club in his rookie year, starting 23 and recording over 2000 minutes of playing time.
The team's bold trade upward to draft him was met with an equally bold and confident demeanor on and off the field from the young defender. Hagglund filled the gap when captain Steven Caldwell went down with an extended injury layoff in the middle of the season. He also spearheaded a come-from-behind win over the Portland Timbers with a pair of debut goals near the end of the year, and recorded three assists.
It all made for a strong introduction for the 22-year-old.
“I came in not thinking I was going to have that much playing time, that it was going to be a learning season from the bench and I got to learn on the field,” Hagglund told reporters at the team’s locker room clear out in early November. “It was a roller-coaster season. I had ups, I had downs, but ultimately I learned a lot and I’m excited for the sophomore jump.”
Jump, not slump: a telling choice of words for a player whose confidence and charisma made him an instant fan favorite in Toronto. Hagglund says he’s excited to return to the club in 2015, with the hope that the team retains much of the roster's core in a drive for consistency.
But Hagglund says he’s also hoping the current crop can take up more responsibility, too.
“People can talk about consistency in teams, the RSLs, LAs, guys that have the same rosters in their teams year in and year out,” Hagglund said. “That starts with consistency and keeping the same people around.”
That hasn’t always been the case for players drafted by TFC in the past. But the team’s management said early in the season that the draft was key to building a successful MLS club. In Hagglund, the team found a player worthy of that belief and in return, the young defender made clear his loyalty to Toronto.
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“I want to be a part of this club,” Hagglund said. “I want to be a part of the rise of Toronto FC.”
Hagglund’s mentor, Caldwell, says the young defender has all the pieces to succeed at Toronto, too.
“I asked him how many games he had played, and he told me 25,” Caldwell said. “That’s phenomenal for a rookie coming into the league, especially as a defender, one of the most difficult positions to play without experience.
“He’s a fantastic lad, and a great character in the dressing room and on the field. I think the break and the time to reflect and think about his first season will help him immensely and he’ll be ready to come back next year better and stronger.”