Good Luck Tony Tchani
One day down the road Toronto FC supporters are going to regret the fact that Tony Tchani was dealt away. Now it might not be regret over what TFC was able to obtain in return for trading him last week, or for that matter regret that he was traded away to a hated rival in Columbus. It might even not be regret that the main piece they secured in the DeRo trade has already left town. Most of all I think it will be regret over the fact that in a few years from now Tchani is going to become a dominant player in this league.
Of the players Toronto let go last week in what has been just about the busiest transfer window yet for the Reds, Tchani to me stands out as the one with the most upside. Some might argue that young Nana Attakora should have that title considering that he is Canadian, is from Toronto and that he is already an experienced MLS defender with youth and ability on his side. Gordon and Peterson are decent MLS’ers who while have some skill, are closer to retiring than starting out in this sport. Tchani was the best piece TFC let go last week in this most recent overhaul, at least to me.
Tony was raw as hell in a lot of ways in his brief time here, which is what many sophomore US college products are coming from the NCAA into the MLS. The American College system is renowned for producing excellent soccer athletes who need a lot of work when they hit the pros to become soccer players and Tony Tchani definitely fit that mold. A Maurice Edu for example, who TFC made their first ever draft pick, was much closer to the finished product than the vast majority of NCAA players are when they hit the professional ranks. Mo Edu was the exception to the rule that are players like Tony Tchani.
Tony brought size and a strength to the midfield. You can’t teach 6 feet and four inches. He also at times looked very confident and self assured on the ball. Whether it was teaming up with Rafa Marquez last season in New Jersey or Julian de Guzman this season in Toronto Tony to me looked to be getting closer each game to deserving his Generation Adidas status and his high draft pick. And if you ask the North End Elite, they will tell you that the joy that Tony showed when he leaped into the stands after scoring ironically a goal versus Columbus that cost him an undeserved red card was that of a player that loved playing here.
Many fellow fans I have talked to about Tony disagree with me about his upside. And yes it will be years before we truly know who is right and who is wrong, as judging the career of a player who is still so young is not exactly a science.
But what sealed it for me was a display only a few got to see. Early last month on a sunny Friday morning I was lucky enough to see up close the potential I thought he has on full display. I was at a TFC training session at BMO Field and while on the sidelines I observed the practice with a few of the assembled Toronto soccer media. There was a drill that Bob de Klerk was running that saw Tony placed at the centre spot with Joao Plata about 30-35 yards down the field on the left wing and Maicon Santos was in the centre outside the box. They ran the drill twenty times in a row where Tony whipped the ball wide to a fast running Plata who then crossed the ball across the top of the box to Maicon who worked to get a shot or a header onto Stefan Frei in net. And when Tchani got the ball at the centre spot a team mate rushed in to try and block or pressure him into making a mistake.
What struck me most about the drill was that for the first six or seven times they did it Tchani hit a galloping Plata right at his feet with a 100% perfect ball. And after twenty runs of the drill (yes I counted them) Tchani hit Plata with a perfect ball eighteen of those twenty times it was run. Only twice did he hit the ball a bit too long for Plata to corral it in and get a cross off into the box. And even with an onrushing teammate he was still able to get the ball down the field. I am probably not doing justice to to what I saw in the description of it here.. not even close.
Now before the comments section below fills up with comments about the lunacy of trying to gauge the future of a player on one specific observation let me tell you that I get that point of view. I know that this was just one small event in the greater scheme of things. I truly get that.
Now I am really pleased that Aron Winter and his staff were able to obtain a solid MLS quality centre back in Andy Iro for him. And the midfielder in the trade, Leandre Griffit, is according to some reports is more of a known commodity to the TFC front office than most and he might turn out to be useful… who knows. I guess Tchani had to be dealt to shore up the chasm just behind him in the back line that were the the centre back positions. Fair enough. You have to give to get.
In a few years from now we will all know if Tony Tchani is the special player I think he can be or if he is just another MLS journeyman. Sadly for Toronto FC fans I for one think it will be more the former than the latter.