2 February 2013

A full not half Nelsen

By Enrico Scirocco - Sportswriter

JANUARY has proven to be a reasonably active month for Toronto FC (TFC).

They managed to hire a coach, traded their first and third overall picks in the MLS draft, drafted two promising Canadian players, and made a trade of sorts.

Plus, as an aside, I want to mention a little about football philanthropy.

Nelsen arriving earlier than expected:

When Ryan Nelsen was first hired by the Reds there was no confirmation as to when he was actually going to start coaching the team.

The early reports suggested that he would miss training camp and may not have been available until after the English Premier League was complete.

It now seems that Nelsen will indeed be joining TFC for the start of the season, after playing his last game for Queens Park Rangers against Manchester City, leading the team to a 0-0 draw versus the league champions.

The QPR fans and players had a chance to say goodbye to Nelsen and gave him warm send off - even QPR owner Tony Fernandes tweeted his well wishes to the new TFC coach.

Nelsen joining TFC now is important for the club, as he will now have the opportunity to shape this team in his mould, seeing the players train every day, and making the judgment calls on players based on what he sees.

He should be in Florida with the rest of the team in February for the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic tournament ,where TFC will play their first pre-season game on the 9th versus the Columbus Crew.

'Draft scmaft':

A team owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd, after finishing last in the league, holds a high draft pick.

So what is the modus operandi for this franchise? well, trading that top pick away, of course (at least TFC did not get an overpaid, aging veteran for the pick).

TFC traded their number one overall pick in the draft, for the fourth pick, and then traded that pick for the 16th overall pick.

In each case, they received an undisclosed amount of allocation money. With their third pick and 16th picks, TFC picked up local boys Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshman.

Bekker is a midfield playmaker and Welshman is an energetic forward, and both are players that team president Kevin Payne coveted with the higher picks, so being able to draft them with lower picks was a bonus.

TFC was able to walk away from the draft with a bunch of allocation money, and two good, young Canadian boys to add to the squad.

Only time will tell how Bekker and Welshman develop into MLS players and we will have to see what Payne is able to do with the additional allocation money.

Shipped out on a Real Salt Plata:

Joao Plata's days at BMO Field were finished once the whole mess that was his loan deal took place last season.

Plata was traded to Real Salt Lake and was a bit of a fan favourite for his decent play during his time at TFC.

The Ecuadorian played in 52 games, and managed to score 10 goals and assist on nine others, however in the CONCACAF Champions League, he scored six goals in only nine games, most of those goals being quite important.

He is a fast, 20-year-old forward that showed a lot of potential but was never really a good fit for TFC.  

Reds president Payne explained the decision: ''While Plata is a player our fans enjoyed watching he did not figure in our plans moving forward.''

In return, TFC received a second round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. This seems like a poor return for a young, promising forward, although Plata's 5ft 2'', 135 pound frame has always been a drawback.

The best part of this deal for TFC is that it frees up an international roster spot which could come in handy.

Football philanthropy:

On a different note, and not entirely related to TFC, my good friend Sonja is going to mark her 1000th Twitter follower with a donation to The Homeless World Cup.

As they say on their website, they use 'the power of football to energize homeless people so they can change their own lives'.

You can read about Sonja's take on football philanthropy here and you can help out this organization by following Sonja or by donating here.  

There might even be something in it for you.

Location: Toronto, Canada

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