TORONTO – The bye week was a bit busier, and more fruitful, for some than others at Toronto FC.
Without a league match on the schedule, many within the team enjoyed a rare weekend away from the pitch. But a friendly match versus New Zealand meant more travel, and more soccer, for a sizeable contingent at TFC.
Five Canadians made the trip to Spain for head coach John Herdman’s first camp in charge of the national team, signalling the start of a new era the Canucks, and things appear to be trending in the right direction as Canada looked strong in their 1-0 victory.
But for Toronto head coach Greg Vanney, there was much more to like about Saturday’s performance aside from the positive result.
“It was good for all of those guys to get time, get into that mix and get a feel for what the expectations are for the national team with a new head coach,” he told reporters following Monday’s training session.
“[Jonathan Osorio] was the best player on the field in my opinion,” Vanney continued. “He looked very mature, he was very much in control which is nice to see. For a guy who was in and out of the team in the last few years, he’s now established himself as one of the top guys in that team. I was also pleased to see [Ashtone Morgan] get another 50, 60 minutes under his belt this season, that was great.”
Continuing his torrid form, Osorio dazzled against the All Whites and his confidence appears to be at an all-time high.
“Just keep doing the things I’ve been doing, on and off the field,” Osorio said. “I’ve been doing a good job of doing whatever it takes to get my body and mind ready for games. It’s the same mindset even though I’m coming home to a different team with a different system, but I’ll get myself adapted to that. One training session here and I’ll be good to go.”
Osorio may have been the Man of the Match, but it was Tosaint Ricketts who bagged the game-winning goal in the 54th minute. Even in a friendly match, the tally marked an important step forward for the Edmonton native.
“It was good for Tos to get 70 minutes, good for his confidence to get a goal,” Vanney added. “It was important to get that game under his belt and to hit the back of the net; that’s always a good feeling for a goal scorer. Now he can continue to build off that.”
After missing a large spell of the team’s preseason training camp due to a thyroid abnormality, Ricketts is looking to leave his frustrations in the past.
“It wasn’t an ideal start to 2018, certainly not what I planned,” he told TorontoFC.ca. “But that’s life, you have to take these things in stride and build from there.”
The time away from the pitch put Ricketts at a disadvantage come the start of the season, as Vanney admitted.
“What he missed all preseason was game fitness, so to get him some match time is valuable for him. He’s been trying to find his timing and rhythm within training sessions—when to be showing and connecting with the group, the timing of his runs, how many touches to take—it’s these types of things that you work through in preseason that he didn’t have much time to work through.”
Ricketts echoed his coach’s sentiments: “It’s all about confidence. You can do as much as you want in the gym and in training, but you need that match fitness and comfortability.”
That comfort level has returned thanks to a strong performance with the national team. And with the Reds facing a busy month of April, Ricketts is primed to be a top contributor once more.
“I feel great, much better than before,” he said. “[The abnormality] was something I was carrying for a while before it sped up and started affecting me drastically. Now I feel strong, I feel ready.”