The Case For Jonathan Osorio

Numbers back Toronto midfielder in MLS Rookie of the Year race.

Video: Jonathan Osorio ahead of Saturday's match in Columbus.

TORONTO – While his fine play during his first season with Toronto FC has likely established him as a contender for the 2013 MLS Rookie of the Year award, midfielder Jonathan Osorio isn’t giving much thought to the possibility of such an honor these days.

“I’m not thinking [about individual awards] at all,” Osorio told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m focused on winning with Toronto FC.”

GOALS: Osorio v. Seattle | v. Columbus | v. Philadelphia | v. New York | v. Los Angeles

While he has flown under the radar somewhat compared to highly touted freshmen such as Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown, Andrew Farrell and DeAndre Yedlin, the numbers suggest that Osorio should indeed be in the discussion for top rookie honors.

With five goals tallied to date, Osorio sits second in goals scored behind Robert Earnshaw for TFC and one goal behind Colorado Rapids forward Brown in the rookie goalscoring table. Of note, Osorio has played considerably fewer minutes than Brown, while seeing his opportunities split between two different positions, playing in a central midfield role and out wide.

Thus, given his propensity for scoring dramatic goals this season, a strong completion to his 2013 campaign could realistically see Osorio finish his freshman season as both TFC’s top scorer and as the top goal getter among MLS rookies.

Toronto FC captain Steven Caldwell admitted on Thursday that he would not be the least bit surprised if the TFC Academy graduate finished the current campaign on an even stronger run of form than he started it.

“The improvement that I have seen in him over the last two to three months has been outstanding,” Caldwell said. “He is growing as a lad and as a player and his confidence level is getting higher all the time. He obviously has an abundance of talent, ability and pace. I think he is going to be a top class player.”

While some of the young players on Toronto’s squad have struggled to earn regular minutes this season under head coach Ryan Nelsen, Osorio’s rise has been meteoric, with much of his production coming during a season in which Toronto’s roster has been in flux.

Asked if he had foreseen the impact he has ultimately been able to have when he earned a spot on the Reds roster out of training camp, the 21-year-old came across as both humble and confident.

“It is a really big surprise, but, at the same time, it also isn’t, because I knew if I worked hard that good things would happen,” Osorio said. “I knew that I had the talent to play in this league. So if I work harder on improving the weaknesses that I have as a player, then I know I will be a good player in the MLS.”

“I think I have grown a lot this season,” Osorio added. “I am becoming a lot smarter on the field with my runs and the timing of my tackles.”

According to TFC teammate and MLS veteran Bobby Convey, Osorio has benefited from being able to play his first MLS season in his hometown of Toronto.

“For him it has been great that he is from here,” Convey said. “It is easier to be around your family. It also helps being with the Canadian national team because there are a few guys from that team here and they are all friends. It is nice to have that and it makes for an easier transition.”

Nelsen has been full praise for Osorio all season long and he believes that his young midfield star has his head on right and that his priorities are exactly where they need to be.

“It’s what you do with team that generally gives the most satisfaction,” Nelsen said. “I know with Oso that he just wants to get better. If he gets awards on the way, so be it, but he wants the club to win and that is the main thing for him.”