There is yet another young Red to keep an eye on in the fold.
On Tuesday Noble Okello became the latest academy product to join the first team at Toronto FC. He becomes the 19th player from the TFC Academy to join the MLS squad.
“It's a good feeling,” said Okello from training in California of reaching the next stage. “I've been at the club for seven years, playing in the academy, going through the system. It feels good to finally get the opportunity to play for the first team. It's a dream of mine; I can't wait to contribute.”
With the club since the age of 12, the 18-year-old midfielder has risen up the ranks in recent years: graduating to TFC III in 2016, debuting for TFC II late in the 2017 USL season, and featuring there regularly in 2018.
“The sky is the limit for Noble,” said TFC head coach Greg Vanney. “He's a big fella with big presence on the field, but he moves smooth, has incredibly soft feet: ability to play in one touch and get the ball off of his feet with his ideas quickly.”
“He's a young player who is going to continue to fill out in terms of his body and if we can continue to develop his soccer IQ, his presence and decisions, again the sky is the limit,” continued Vanney. “We're looking forward to him making another step.”
When he signed his first professional contract in the fall of 2017 with TFC II, Okello described himself: “I'm hard working, love to play the game, and try to do whatever my team needs, whether that is playing simple or getting into hard challenges.”
It is in that same spirit that he intends to continue.
“I'm looking to work hard first and foremost,” said Okello of the upcoming season. “Hopefully impress the manager enough to get some minutes, but I know I'm young. Work hard, progress, and I'll get my chance.”
Already turning heads for his ability to dominate the midfield, Okello was an offensive star for Canada at the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship last November, scoring three goals in five matches.
“Noble's talent is through the roof; he can be an excellent pro,” said Vanney last October.
As he continues his development, his coach wants Okello to ratchet up the intensity: “To the highest possible level: every game, all the time, every situation.”
“Sometimes he's so comfortable, so composed, so smooth and easy that you don't see a change of speed, intensity, aggression, when it needs. Because he's such an imposing figure, you want to see that rise out of him,” urged Vanney. “When he finds the balance, he will take a big step. As the games start moving faster, he's got to be thinking and shifting and moving quicker with more intensity. And then his presence and size becomes a real factor in the game.”
“He's capable of dominating games,” added Vanney, hinting then that Okello was ready for more challenges. “More high-level games, more environments where it's demanded of him. We're seeing progress; we want to keep pushing.”