Richie Laryea picked up just where he left off. 

Inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday night, a little more than a day after his loan from Nottingham Forest was made official, Laryea slotted nicely into his familiar right-back position in Toronto FC’s 4-3 win away to Nashville SC.

He set up Jonathan Osorio’s second goal of the evening in the 44th minute with a low ball through the goalmouth and then won the penalty kick with one of his trademark driving moves into the box in the second half. 

It may be a new era for the club, but it was just like old times. 

“Richie brings different qualities on the right side,” said Bob Bradley post-match. “His ability to get forward; he’s a good dribbler and the fact that he's played with these guys – the things we've tried to work on this year, it all makes sense for him. It's not difficult for him to come right in and show that he's got qualities that really make a difference and help us.”

“His mentality to get here quickly and get on the field was really important. You could just tell how excited he was,” he added. “Travel, a little bit of training, and ready to go.”

It was a whirlwind 72 hours: arriving back in Toronto on Thursday, straight into training at the BMO Training Ground the next day, and then back on another flight into Nashville before putting in a 64-minute shift.

“I got on a seven-hour flight back to Toronto, landed late, went to train the next day, flew here and then played. It's been nonstop, but it's good,” said Laryea. “I got to play a game today, got some minutes under my belt. Yeah, a little bit of a hectic 72 hours, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.”

Initially an unsigned trialist ahead of the 2019 season, Laryea, a midfielder-turned-full-back, quickly became an ever-present for TFC. His performances over the next three seasons, both with Toronto and the Canadian National Team, earned him a move overseas.

In January when he transferred to England, Forest were flying, on the roll that would see them earn promotion from the Championship into the Premier League. The form of Djed Spence, who has since joined Tottenham Hotspur, meant that opportunities to break into the side were limited. 

Still, it was an experience Laryea relished.

“I was playing with good players for a massive club in a very good league. When I got there, the team was flying and I had to be patient. It's part of the game,” he explained. “I thought I did well with appearances that I had and that's all I can really say.”

“Obviously the guy that was playing ahead of me was a top player; the team was in top form. You just have to be professional about these things, wait your turn, and if opportunity presents you go get minutes elsewhere,” Laryea continued. “That was a decision for me to make with my family and my representation to see what the next move was for me to get minutes ahead of a World Cup.”

“No negatives, a lot of positives,” he summarized. “It helped me a lot to grow as a player and a person, especially off the field. Maybe other people might have different perspectives, maybe people thought I wasn't happy, but I was happy. I was getting used to a new environment, playing with different players, a different league, different systems. For me, it was a great experience. I'm here on loan now, so we'll see what the future holds, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I would do the exact same thing a million times over.”

His first spell with TFC saw Laryea make massive strides as a player.

Bob Bradley was watching closely.

“I watched; saw it all,” said the TFC coach on Thursday. “He made a lot of steps. You could just see when he was given the opportunity, how much he jumped on it.”

“I had a chance to speak to him a few times before he left. I know how much he loved the club and how much he loves Toronto, that all played into the possibility of having him come back,” Bradley continued. “He seems very excited about it. The players are excited. That all works really well for everyone.”

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar fast approaching, playing time was very important for Laryea.

“That was obviously part of the reason for my loan,” said Laryea. “With the options that I had I was weighing everything, whether I should stay in Europe or explore coming back here.”

“Coming back was perfect. I get to play with a few guys that are on my national team like Doneil [Henry], Mark-Anthony [Kaye], Oso, so it's good to build relationships with those guys, that was a big reason,” he continued. “And then also playing for this club, playing with other top guys like Mimmo [Domenico Criscito], [Lorenzo] Insigne, Mike [Michael Bradley], Chris [Mavinga] – there’s so many good players here.”

“Also it was a place I knew I could come in, fit in right away, and feel like I was at home, but at the same time challenge myself and continue to get better,” Laryea added. “It's an exciting time. Every Canadian in the pool is trying to play the best they can to be the top form come November [and] these camps coming up before the World Cup. It was a good move and, yeah, some circled dates [on the calendar] for a lot of us.”

Laryea is happy to be back, his teammates are happy to have him back as well.

“Amazing, of course. We love him here at the club,” smiled Osorio. “It's very obvious how much we value him and Richie loves this club as well. Toronto gave him a chance at a time in his career where he really needed it and he's been playing ever since.”

“It's been great. Of course, we're happy to have him back,” he added. “He gets the penalty and it's like he never left.”