TORONTO – Canadian duo Jonathan Osorio and Ashtone Morgan are both thriving on the left side of Toronto FC’s new-look line up.
Whether the two are playing one-two passes to each other in a rush up the flank or doubling up on defensive duty to prevent a cross, Osorio and Morgan, two Toronto locals and Homegrown players, have established themselves as key starters for surging TFC.
Now they’ll get a chance to strut their stuff on the international level, with both players earning a call on Tuesday to Canada’s roster for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Dominica.
“I’m really excited,” Osorio told reporters at training Tuesday. “These are my first World Cup qualifiers and I’m sure it’s going to be different. It’s tough going to the Caribbean and playing in those conditions. I’m excited because it’s our first steps now towards the World Cup in 2018. Our objective is to bring Canada back to the World Cup.”
Osorio and Morgan will hope to continue their left-sided partnership for Canada, who will begin their home-and-home series in the second round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying at Dominica on June 11 before hosting the island nation in the return leg at BMO Field on June 16. Both players will join Canada camp in Orlando on Sunday following TFC's match at D.C. United on Saturday (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“We have a great understanding on the left side,” Morgan told reporters at training Tuesday. “There’s a lot of double-teaming and I think our work rate together has been really good, and has been going upwards since we started playing together.”
“We’ve done a lot of practicing on that,” Osorio said. “In the first few games, it wasn’t perfect at all but in these last games, it has been really good. It helps that, off the field, we have a very good relationship. On the field, we’re not afraid to communicate with each other. Sometimes, there are times in the games we don’t agree with each other but we get on with it and in the end, we both agree on what needs to be done.”
Osorio’s spot in the Canadian national team has been on-again, off-again. But for Morgan, a return to Benito Floro’s squad came after TFC boss Greg Vanney moved Justin Morrow to right back, opening a spot on the left for Morgan, who has found his form and evolved into a rock-solid defensive option.
“I’m not sure if there’s a better left back in Canada right now in terms of his performances,” Vanney said of Morgan, who has started TFC's last nine league games. “A big part of [his evolution] is confidence and belief, and having somebody who believes in him. He’s able to relax and play a little bit, do the things he does very well.”
Vanney, who himself was a left back during his 13-year playing career, says Morgan possesses all the physical attributes needed to be a handful on the offensive end. He also noted that Morgan has fine-tuned his defensive decision-making in the last few months, and has become a better player for it:
“His choices are better, and as such, he’s taking less cards, he’s been in less challenges where guys squirm out on the other side of him, or he’s trying to bite on something and guys get back around him,” Vanney said. “He’s making good, sound decisions and proving that he’s a very good defender in addition to the things he can help us with going forward.”