There’s always the one that got away.
Seven years ago, Toronto FC Academy product Mark-Anthony Kaye departed the team's North York training centre for what seemed to be the final time, parting ways with the club.
On Friday, it was announced that the midfielder was acquired via trade from the Colorado Rapids and on Monday he was reintroduced to his hometown.
“It feels like it was just yesterday I was here, so it's a little surreal,” said Kaye at the BMO Training Ground. “It’s going to take a while to really sink in, but I'm super excited. This has always been a club that's been in my heart. It’s done great things and I'm just excited to be a part of the next journey. I know there's a lot of things coming for this club and I'm just grateful to be a part of it.”
After two seasons in the USL with Louisville City FC, three-plus more with LAFC in MLS, and a year with the Rapids, Kaye is the latest of many high-quality additions to TFC.
“To add a player like Mark – experienced, very familiar with the club, very excited about coming back here,” began Bob Bradley, who signed Kaye to Los Angeles. “And then from a football standpoint, the work that we did together – he appreciates the way we tried to play, some of the things we did that helped him improve and develop.”
“Right away he starts with ideas of--when we talk about things in the midfield--rotations and movements and ways of finding space and things like that. Mark's very aware of all those things,” he continued. “A player that wants to be here, experienced, has done well, has really improved, and, I should mention, is an important part of the Canadian National Team.”
For Kaye, the prospect of reuniting with his former coach was just one of the many factors that made a return to Toronto such a mouth-watering proposal.
TRAINING SOUND | Mark Anthony-Kaye | July 11, 2022
“It was revolutionary for me,” said Kaye of their time in LA. “I was coming out of the USL, trying to establish myself in MLS and Bob really took me under his wing and was patient with me and really pushed me to understand the game in a better capacity. I'm tremendously grateful for all of that.”
“I really enjoyed my football under him, we played some really good soccer at LAFC and I was able to excel and push forward in my career. Grateful to be reunited,” he continued. “It's a very crucial year for TFC and also the Canadian Men's National Team. It aligns perfectly with what Bob is trying to do here.”
Teaming up with Jonathan Osorio and Michael Bradley in the middle of the park is another.
“Two very, very, very good midfielders. A lot of what I've been taught from Bob has a lot to do with Michael, so to have the opportunity to play with him, but also see his leadership qualities and how he holds himself on the field and within a club. That's something I can really use to push myself forward,” Kaye explained. “And me and Oso have a very good relationship. I love the way he's played, I've always looked up to him from our early years with the academy; we're on the national team together. So it's going to be exciting to pass the ball back and forth to each other and fight together. We have this collective fight that is brewing in our blood right now and I'm glad that I can jump in with him.”
Said Osorio: “Personally, I'm happy.”
TRAINING SOUND | Jonathan Osorio | July 11, 2022
“Me and Mark get along really well – before the national team, but especially with the national team, that has grown into a really strong relationship,” he continued. “Amazing for the club as well. We're really happy for him to be here and to be back home. A player of his characteristic is something that fits in. He will contribute right away.”
And then there is just being home, close to his mom and brothers.
“The day it all happened cell service was down. I didn't actually call my mom right away and I hope she didn't find out from anyone else,” Kaye recounted. “I ended up talking to her around midnight, Toronto time.”
“She was super excited,” he continued. “She's so loving, she just wanted me to be happy. I think she put my happiness before hers. She was like, ‘If this is where you want to be, then I'm happy for you.’ I thought it was going to be, ‘I'm so excited that you’re home,’ but it shows what type of person my mom is, she always wants the best for me.”
That coming to Toronto was a possibility was not on anybody’s radar.
“No, we had just been traded [to Colorado] 10 months ago from LAFC and we were just gearing up to get the most out of that situation leading into a World Cup,” replied the midfielder, speaking with his wife Rachel Kirchhoff off camera. “When I heard there was interest, obviously there's a part of me that was super excited and a part of me that didn't know if it was going to be possible. And things moved very quickly. We're happy with the way things went. I'm here, I'm ready to work.”
Added Bradley: “It came about in recent weeks. And then some of the speculation got in the way and made the trade harder.”
TRAINING SOUND | Bob Bradley | July 11, 2022
Wednesday away to the Chicago Fire may be too soon for Kaye to make his debut, but the games are coming thick and fast for the rest of the season.
“To be determined,” said Bradley of his availability. “He had a little tightness in the glute/hamstring that we're working on today. The hope is that we’ll be able to get him on the field tomorrow and see a little bit more.”
Kaye is looking forward to plying his trade in front of the BMO faithful.
“Just seeing the atmosphere and environment that has continued to evolve here at BMO, I'm really excited,” he smiled. “It adds so much to the game when you go out there and the stadium is rocking with loud supporters. It gives the players an extra boost and it makes you feel good about yourself, if you feel good about yourself usually you play well.”
Toronto is home, it had to be.
“When you think of Canadian football, you think of Toronto FC,” said Kaye. “I've lived in some beautiful cities, but Toronto is a top-10 city in the world. I have to show my wife that – I don't think she believes it entirely yet – but I’ve got a lot of time to get her on board.”
“I always knew that if I was coming back to Canada,” he added. “It was going to be Toronto.”