A lot can change quickly in soccer.
Ten days ago Brandon Servania was in Dallas preparing for his fifth season in MLS, anticipating an opening weekend match against Minnesota United in Frisco, Texas.
On Monday he was traded to Toronto FC with Jesús Jiménez headed in the opposite direction, come Tuesday he arrived in Toronto, Wednesday saw him training at the BMO Training Ground with his new side, then, after a few days of preparation, came a quick flight to Washington D.C. on Friday and his TFC debut on Saturday against D.C. United.
“A lot going on and in a short period of time,” reflected the 23-year-old midfielder on Tuesday. “Just trying to switch the mindset: going into the offseason and the beginning of preseason looking for ways that I can help FC Dallas and now just flipping that switch, moving here, getting used to the cold, some snow to welcome me, trying to see what I can do to help these guys here in Toronto.”
Servania wasn’t expecting to be moved, but knew that possibility came with the territory.
“A little bit of surprise, but that's how this league works, it happens,” he explained. “Wishing Dallas all the best, I’d been there for a long time and nothing but grateful for everything they've done for me. Now just making this new step and this new chapter in my career.”
Having signed a homegrown contract ahead of the 2018 season, Servania was one of a raft of talented youngsters Dallas has fostered in recent years. Coming off a career year in 2022 – two goals and three assists in 23 MLS appearances – Toronto added a guy with a high ceiling and a promising future.
“Brandon is a talented young midfielder,” said Bob Bradley last week. “Experienced in the league, versatile. We felt like we could still add some midfield depth and [he’s] a player that fits in well with our overall ideas. It was a move that made sense.”
Mark-Anthony Kaye has seen his new teammate up close and personal, battling with Servania and FC Dallas in the Western Conference over his time with LAFC and the Colorado Rapids.
“Good on the ball, comfortable getting the ball to his feet, and has a very good strike – he can shoot a ball very well; technique is good,” said Kaye ahead of D.C. United. “I remember a game against Dallas for Colorado and he scored a worldie of a goal. He has that in his locker, which is nice, but he has a good midfielder mindset that will definitely grow here in this system.”
Servania describes himself as ‘a dynamic midfielder.’
“I played a little bit six in the past, lately I've been playing more as an eight, box-to-box, a guy that's going to come on and give energy, like I tried to do in D.C.” he continued. “Try to help push play, distribute, and hopefully get some goals. I think I have a pretty good shot, so we'll see if some of those go in this year.”
He made his debut on Saturday against D.C. coming on for Adama Diomande in the 77th minute, slotting into the right side of midfield, and took little time to show those instincts.
Servania covered a lot of ground, chipping in on the defensive side and linking up neatly with Ayo Akinola on the edge of the D.C. box – the two were teammates for the US U-20 National Team.
He nearly sprung Akinola in on goal and won a dangerous free-kick in the process – the same free-kick that saw Federico Bernardeschi force a save from Tyler Miller that led to Kaye’s go-ahead goal in the 83rd minute.
“‘Just go out there and play like you know how to’ – they brought me for a reason,” recounted Servania of the instructions he received ahead of coming on. “And not to overthink anything. ‘Just go out there, listen to the guys next to you, they're going to help you’ – I didn't know too much about the system, I've only had two/three days to train.”
“It went well. I tried to bring energy, a little spark,” he continued. “It didn't go how we wanted it to at the end, but there’s things that we will learn and grow from.”
A change of scenery can be beneficial to a young player. Servania has already had a variety of experiences, including a training stint with Bayern Munich and a loan spell with Austrian club SNK St. Pölten, but he is eager to take the next step in his career.
“I've had moments that show my quality, but now it's about consistency. I’m not a young guy anymore,” he said, a few weeks short of his 24th birthday. “I've been in the league for a few years now and it's about trying to be more consistent and putting a longer run of good games together. Hopefully I can do that here.”
The snow will take some getting used to for the native of Birmingham, Alabama, who arrived in town just as winter decided to deliver its final few twists.
“Definitely a big shock,” he laughed. “It was a nice welcome, though. I loved it.”
“When I came in and I saw everyone driving on the snow, that was one thing I was a little nervous about, but no, it's been good,” Servania joked. “Just trying to get used to the weather. It's a beautiful facility, so just excited. Hopefully, I can get used to this weather sooner rather than later.”
Servania joins a side eager to add to the trophy cabinet.
“It's a club that has some hardware,” he observed. “Looking at the roster you see big names and a lot of vets in this league and with national teams, the US and Canada. A lot of guys with a lot of experience.”
“I'm looking forward to learning from them, seeing what I can do to help them, push them, and also push myself to get better,” Servania continued. “I think we can do great things with the squad that we have. I'm excited to see what happens.”
And a side with a stacked and experienced midfield: Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Kaye, Victor Vázquez.
“There's a lot of quality,” he agreed. “I think that I have quality as well, though.”
“That's a big thing that I've realized moving here, that I have to show that confidence, that I know how to play and I can play with those guys,” Servania continued. “So whether I'm on the bench coming on or whether I'm starting, I know what I can do to bring quality to this team.”
He fills a gap in the age profiles of the TFC midfield. With the veterans on one side and the likes of Kosi Thompson and Deandre Kerr bracing for their second seasons with the first team.
“I do have more youth to get up and down the pitch at times, late in the game,” Servania highlighted. “That's something that I can bring to help spark the midfield.”
Debut in hand, Saturday’s trip to Atlanta will be extra special for Servania.
“It's a great stadium, great atmosphere. The fan base is amazing, so it's going to be a challenge. We're up for it,” he said. “From Alabama there's going to be a lot of friends and family trying to get to the game, so it’ll be nice to have a little bit of support. I don't know if I'll hear them over the 1000s of other people, but I'm excited to go down there and try to get three points.”