TORONTO — On Tuesday night, he dazzled professional soccer players from Panama. By Wednesday morning, he'll be back in class at 9 a.m.
Toronto FC academy prospect Ashtone Morgan made a dream debut at left back on Tuesday night at Toronto's BMO Field. The 19-year-old, who still attends high school in Toronto, made several surging runs up the field in TFC's 1-0 win over Panama’s Árabe Unido in both teams' final CONCACAF Champions League group game.
Combined with his solid defending and distribution of the ball his riveting play opened the eyes of teammates and coaching staff to his future potential.
VIDEO: Ashtone Morgan was ecstatic following his MLS debut.
“Speed is what football is about and Ashton has it,” said Toronto interim head coach Nick Dasovic after the game. “If you have a guy like him breaking up the field towards the opposition goal, he is going to be a threat to the opposition and he proved that tonight.”
Academy player Oscar Cordon also saw action for the Reds on Tuesday, entering the game in the 66th minute for Julian de Guzman. Cordon showed enthusiasm and also played strongly during his 24 minutes on the field.
“I was part of the academy program when I joined TFC and we need this type of connection to the first team,” said Dasovic. “Pressing them into action served as a reward for all of their hard work this season but it also provided an incentive for many of our regular first team players.”
Dasovic also used former academy players Doneil Henry and Nicholas Lindsay, who were signed to professional contracts by Toronto in August, in his starting 11 against Árabe.
Morgan, a former Toronto Lynx youth development player who has experience with Canada’s Under-20 squad, also made several strong defensive plays including stepping up to clear a dangerous corner kick from the top of Toronto’s six-yard box early in the first half.
“I came into the game nervous and didn’t know what to expect,” said Morgan. “But I just settled into the match early and feel I proved myself.”
Morgan attends classes at a high school less than two miles from BMO Field and he said his school’s close proximity to the stadium has made juggling his soccer responsibilities and study much easier.
In the second half, Morgan came close to notching a goal in his first game, unleashing a hard shot from the top of the penalty area in the 71st minute forcing Árabe keeper José Calderón to make a diving save.
“I know when I was 19, I wasn’t that good,” said Toronto defender Nana Attakora who scored the only goal of the match. “I don’t think [Morgan] misfired on one pass. He surprised a lot of people with his play and showed well for himself.”
Midfielder de Guzman, a Canadian international with more than three years of La Liga experience, echoed Attakora’s praise of the young defender.
“He was very composed, I was happy to play with him,” said de Guzman. “I thought he was on point and it was a good sign to see another up-and-coming player making his way to the top and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be part of the first team next season.”