Three Toronto FC Academy players have signed their first professional contracts as midfielder Noble Okello and defenders Rocco Romeo and Julian Dunn all inked deals this week.
“I think the signings are pretty consistent with what we want for the future of the club,” said Toronto FC Assistant General Manager, Team Operations and Strategy Corey Wray. ”These signings are obviously important for our desire to expand our professional pathway.”
The Toronto FC professional pathway consists of three distinct steps, starting with Toronto FC III in League1 Ontario. Players then have the chance to move on to Toronto FC II in the USL before the ultimate goal of signing an MLS deal with TFC’s first team. These three players all signed USL contracts and will start their journey playing professionally for both Toronto FC II and III.
Noble Okello – Midfielder
Okello is a holding midfielder who has made nine appearances in League1 Ontario this season while playing for TFC III. Okello joined the Academy in 2013 coming from Mooredale S.C.
“It means a lot to me to sign,” said the 17-year old Okello. “I’ve been at the club since I was 12 and to finally get the opportunity to play at a high level means a lot.”
“Noble is a player I have high hopes for,” said TFC III Head Coach Danny Dichio.” Noble is a central holding midfielder, a very tall, mobile midfielder who has lovely soft feet… He is a player with a very good mentality.”
“We like the fact that he is a very smart player, technically very sound,” said Wray. “He is able to distribute the ball very easily to either side of the field.”
Rocco Romeo – Defender
Romeo is a central defender who has made 11 appearances in League1 Ontario this season while playing for TFC III. Romeo joined the Academy in 2014 coming from Woodbridge S.C.
“It is a surreal experience for me. Playing for your hometown,” said the 17-year-old Romeo. “Getting to wear the shirt that everyone wears in Toronto is truly an unbelievable experience.”
“Rocco is a very talented distributor of the ball,” said Wray. “He is a very smart organizer in the backline.”
“He’s your more modern-day central defender who is technically very gifted,” added Dichio. “He can spray balls over 50-60 yards very well.”
Julian Dunn – Defender
Dunn is a central defender who has made six appearances in League1 Ontario for TFC III. Dunn was named a League1 Ontario All-Star in July and made his USL debut with TFC II on July 1st. Dunn has played in ten games with TFC II this season. Dunn joined the Academy in 2016 from Brampton Youth S.C.
“It’s amazing to get a start at such an amazing club,” remarked the 17-year-old Dunn. “I can’t wait to get started and move up the ranks.”
“Julian is a defense-first centre back with amazing determination and tenacity off the ball,” stated Wray. ”On the ball he can make some very smart plays [and] distribute quickly.”
“He is a very coachable kid, very respectful,” added Dichio. “He really steps up out of his shoes to become the leader.”
All three of these players have spent significant time playing with each other throughout their careers. From their younger academy days to the Canadian national program, these boys have grown together.
“We have a long-term goal to start to work and bring up players together,” said Wray. “We (TFC management) all feel that that will give us the best potential to be successful. [We want to] bring up generations and continue to work with them.”
When asked what it meant to all sign together Romeo simply said, “I’m glad we all get to stick together.” The defender referred to their relationship as a ‘brotherhood’. Both Okello and Dunn repeated the same. The ultimate goal is to have their ‘brotherhood’ flourish at the next level.
Wray finished by saying, “We think the most powerful potential for our club is to bring them up together so that they can learn to work with each other and then hopefully one day we see that relationship on the first team.”