Jay Chapman - surrounded by Toronto FC teammates - celebrating
USA Today Sports

Talented Canadian trio aiming to break through on stacked Toronto FC team

TORONTO – For a trio of Toronto FC players away with the Canadian national team, MLS minutes have been hard to come by.

With seven matches remaining, Raheem Edwards has played 928 minutes, Jonathan Osorio 646 minutes, and Jay Chapman 371 in MLS play.

And in recent weeks, TFC head coach Greg Vanney appears to have arrived on a starting XI.

“We knew towards the tail-end, things start to settle,” said Vanney on Wednesday. “You don't have games coming as fast as we did [earlier and] want to build continuity within the group. [Also] you want to have guys ready to step in. Make sure that not just our first 11 to 14 guys are ready, but that we have 20 to 22 guys ready help the team.” 

“We still have chances to get guys some minutes,” reminded Vanney. “Let them know they're not far off.”

That said, lack of playing time on the club front can have ramifications for the national team.

CanMNT head coach Octavio Zambrano, speaking during a press conference on Thursday, stressed: “[It's] important that our guys get minutes. It's difficult when you have a good team, you don't want to fix what is not broken. [To] our benefit, our players are in a good environment, a good organization [in Toronto], but we would like to see more playing time for them.”

Speaking via phone with the players from Canada camp in Alliston, Ontario on Wednesday, Chapman, 23, admitted it can be "a little bit frustrating."

“We're the best team in the league,” added Chapman. “With that comes experienced guys that are ready to take the team to an MLS Cup. It's hard to find minutes.”

Vanney's main tool in keeping every member of his squad engaged is communication, according to the players.

All three see roles going forward, next season and in the coming Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.

“I know I can still make a big impact, at the most important time of year,” Osorio said.

For Edwards, increased offensive numbers, "whether it's assists or goals" are the next step. Chapman sees "opportunity" as his biggest hurdle, especially with veteran playmaker Victor Vazquez, who leads the league in assists with 14, as his competition.

“Ask any player, you've just got to play,” said Chapman. “Players in my position, especially Victor, are producing. I've got to show that I'm hard to keep off the team sheet. Within the next year or two I'll be getting more chances.”

And Osorio has been adding both defensive nous and some bite to his game, especially when coming on as a sub. 

“I've had to focus more defensively, protecting the lead,” said Osorio of recent outings. “Won a few tackles, made a few interceptions.”

Each will be looking to get some valuable minutes with Canada against Jamaica at BMO Field on Saturday (7 pm ET | TSN1/4, RDS2), and, though the window between MLS Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 next February is a small one, Vanney said offseason loans were not out of the question.

“Especially for our young guys,” noted Vanney. “Give them more or different types of experiences.”

Said Osorio of the prospect: “It's been a dream of mine to go overseas, especially Europe. If a loan deal comes, I'll take interest in it and do what's best.”

Both Chapman and Edwards were open to the possibility, while reiterating their desire to be in Toronto.

“Toronto is my team,” said Chapman. “I have so much love for the city, if there's an opportunity for me to play consistent minutes [here] that's what I want. If [a loan] is something the staff felt would be in the best interests, I would consider that.”

Added Edwards: “If they need me to. I'm happy where I'm at. I want to continue to play for TFC and prove that I can play valuable minutes.”

Vanney relayed something he conveyed to the players: “Their measure of progress and success this year isn't just about how many first team minutes they have.” 

“They're fortunate and unfortunate to be on a very good team [where it] is very difficult to break the lineup,” explained Vanney. “They get to train with and against these guys every day, in an environment where they're learning from players and, some from us, so they're getting better.”