TORONTO – Thursday marked yet another momentous day in the history of Toronto FC.
On it, the club announced that Jonathan Osorio, TFC's all-time leader in minutes and appearances has been re-signed, putting pen to paper and inking a long-term deal that will see him remain a Red for years to come.
“We are incredibly pleased to announce that Jonathan Osorio has signed a new contract with TFC,” said Club President Bill Manning. “A multi-year contract; [he] will be a TAM player starting next season. This will make Jonathan one of the highest paid Canadian players in the world. He's well deserving of it. We're a better team when Jonathan is playing. Osorio will be with us long term; we want to reward players who excel.”
In his sixth season with the club, the 26-year-old midfielder is having a banner year. Between MLS, the Concacaf Champions League, and the Canadian Championship, Osorio has scored 16 goals in 35 matches and became the first player to reach the 200-appearance mark for TFC.
“Week after week, as Jonathan performed this season, Tim [Bezbatchenko] and I were looking at each other, saying, 'We can't let this guy go,'” relayed Manning. “He is going to be a leader over the next few years; he's an incredible role model for Canadian players.”
TFC Senior Vice-President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Bezbatchenko beamed: “I cannot be happier or more excited about re-signing Osorio; having [him] in our crest, in our uniform for foreseeable future.”
“When you look back at his career, he's gotten better and better each year,” continued Bezbatchenko. “It comes down to his passion, his desire, his work rate, on top of talent. That is why he is an example: it isn't just talent, it's his desire to get better every single day; comes to work with a mission to improve. One of the first in, one of the last out. He's a great example for any young Canadian.”
“He leads our team in minutes played, appearances, but more important than getting on the field is can you help the team win trophies. That's what we're here to do,” stated Bezbatchneko. “He's helped take us to new heights. We won the MLS Cup, got to the Concacaf Champions League final, a number of Canadian Championships. Along the way, he was recognized: the MVP of the Canadian Championship, Golden Boot in Concacaf.”
“Because of that he was desired by many clubs,” added Bezbatchenko. “We put our heads down to find common ground. As we look to, not just build and win, [but] sustain, we're entering into a new era. As we evolve, there is no one we would want more than Osorio, with his passion and commitment, to help take this club to new heights. He's met every challenge. He entered into this DP era, Jonathan was already here: he met that challenge. We entered the TAM era, acquired players in his position: met that competition and rose above.”
Osorio himself was almost at a loss for words.
“It means so much to me,” began Osorio. “I'm really happy we got this done, that I'm going to be home.”
“I've worked really hard to make it to this point,” continued Osorio. “Saying that, I'm not done. There is a lot I want to accomplish, that I want for the city, the fans, and for this team. I'm just so thankful; thinking about the steps I took to get here.”
“It wasn't always easy,” admitted Osorio. “I'm grateful for every single step that I've taken in my career. Now, it's to take more steps, to become a leader, to help this team bring trophies, which is the most important part.”
“I want to keep making history at TFC; make this team the best in North America, and to help make this team known worldwide,” added Osorio. “People may look at me crazy when I say that, but it's possible. I'm going to do everything in my power to make that happen.”
What is a career--a life, even--if not a series of steps.
“This is just another step in the direction he's going, in terms of his game, the quality of it, and what he brings to this team,” said TFC Head Coach Greg Vanney. “From a coaching standpoint, if we had a team full of Osorios we would be in a good place. He shows up to work every day, gives us everything he has every day; always playing to win, competing to win. He's passionate about getting better, adding little things, learning the tactical side, and talking through it.”
“It's been a joy to get to this point – he's earned every cent that he is going to get – and I look forward to continuing to work with him and the potential that is still there to grow with this team and help lead it to more championships... and more wins, let's start there,” smiled Vanney. “I see him evolving into a leader with this team: by example and by his passion and desire to be successful for your city and this club. Everybody looks at him in that way already.”
“A new opportunity,” suggested Vanney to Osorio of this moment. “The only thing that is different is now you get a little bit more money.”
For a glimpse at what this day meant to Osorio, flash back a few weeks to August 15 when TFC lifted a third-straight Voyageurs Cup at BMO Field.
Revelling in that glory, and the MVP honours that came with the George Gross Memorial Trophy, celebrating another title with his parents on the pitch as Queen's 'We are the Champions' blared, Osorio said that moments such as that, and a return to the Champions League, were, “Everything.”
“Every time I put on this jersey it's an honour. To represent, not only my family, myself, but this city and this club that I love so much,” added Osorio. “There are not many people that can say that. I don't take that for granted.”
With his contract in its final year, there was much speculation as to what the future held for Osorio.
“I wanted to stay,” explained Osorio. “I've always had dreams to go abroad, but I saw a challenge here too: a big one that I really want to take. That challenge will open the door for the future of this sport here and for kids.”
“That what I want to be; what I want to be remembered as,” continued Osorio. “People always say you have to go away to get better, but I'm getting better here, have all the resources to become the best player I can be here at Toronto FC. [And] they really want me here. In that sense, it wasn't that difficult. The only difficult part was it was a dream since I was a kid, but now a new dream has come to me: a challenge that I'm really ready for.”
Entering his prime, Vanney has seen Osorio take the steps that are required of a true professional.
“He has grown immensely in the last year,” said Vanney. “What it comes down to for every player – I say this to all of our academy players – is he plays to win every single day, no matter what it is, puts his heart and soul into every single play in training. You have no choice but to get better when you have that approach.”
“He's open-minded, takes feedback well. He knows who he is as a player,” listed Vanney. “That's what being a great professional is about: being consistent all the time. I know when I put Jonathan on the field what I'm going to get. I didn't expect he'd get 16 goals this year, but I know he's going to compete, be great on the ball, create things on the attacking side, and he's grown as a defensive player over the last four years. He's become a complete player; that's a tribute to his hard work every day.”
As TFC pushes for a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs and looks forward to another shot at the Champions League next spring, another key piece of the team has been locked in.
“When you're looking to build a roster, it's not just about talent,” explained Bezbatchenko. “It takes a group that is willing to sacrifice for each other, willing to celebrate the wins and learn from the losses. Those things are wound up in 'character'.”
“When you talk about guys with character, Jonathan comes to mind right away. When a player is knocked down, does he fight back? How do they respond? That's what character is,” emphasized Bezbatchenko. “This year has been a challenging year. Jonathan is the one who has been stepping up week in, week out, putting together, not just good performances, but great performances. [To] create a team that doesn't just look good on paper, but performs together collectively, it's humility, it's passion, that go hand-in-hand with talent. That's exemplified by Mr. Osorio.”