Home MLS Toronto FC The Roberts deal: Why TFC needed to promote a player from the Academy

The Roberts deal: Why TFC needed to promote a player from the Academy


To no one’s surprise, Toronto FC announced the signing of 17-year-old keeper Quillan Roberts to the roster, promoting the Brampton, Ont. native from the Academy ranks to the senior team.

The debate about this move will rage on. At 17, isn’t Roberts better off getting games at the Academy level rather than sitting on the bench for the senior team and getting into one of those few-and-far-between reserve games? Will Roberts actually hurt his development by moving to the big club? And, should TFC, which was down to one goalie on the roster, put a 17-year-old in the position where he might actually have to step into an MLS game?

Even though the broken fibula and damaged ankle ligaments that will force Stefan Frei to miss four to six months, let’s be clear — Toronto FC wasn’t under immense pressure to sign Roberts as an emergency back-up to Milos Kocic. North America is filled with capable out-of-contract veteran keepers, each of whom would gladly take a one-year deal to be a back-up for an MLS team, at salary-cap friendly rates.

So why did TFC do it?

The injury to Frei allowed TFC the opening to promote a player from the Academy, something the club sorely needed to do from a public-relations perspective. Since January, the club has lost two of its most prized Academy prospects, Dylan Carreiro and Michael Petrasso, who wanted to test the waters at Queens Park Rangers. TFC let them go, stating that the club didn’t want to keep players who didn’t want to commit to the club. Of course, when a minor is playing for a club without being paid as a professional, it’s debatable how much legal hold that club has over that player in the first place.

And, just this past week, TFC fans learned that Stefan Vukovic, who led the U-18 Academy — actually, all of the Canadian Soccer League — in scoring last season, is now on trial with the Montreal Impact’s U-21 program. Vukovic is too old for the U-18 squad now, and wasn’t signed by the senior club out of camp.

Quillan Roberts

So, that makes three promising prospects who have left the TFC fold over the last four months. And, of course, there is still the sting of losing Keven Aleman, who was the flashiest, splashiest player on Canada’s U-17 team last year. When Aleman didn’t sign a promissory note to commit to TFC in 2011, he and the club parted ways.

From a PR perspective, the team needed to show off an Academy prospect who was being promoted up top. Sure, there have been six promotions before Roberts — including U-20 Player of the Year Ashtone Morgan and Doneil Henry, who was superb for the U-23 Canadian team at the Olympic qualifiers — but fans, and parents of elite players, have short memories. And TFC needed to do something to make people forget about the players who were leaving.

So, Roberts, best known to fans not for any saves he’s made, but for a ridiculous crazy-hop goal he scored for Canada against England at the U-17 World Cup, now gets a promotion. The Academy’s honour is restored, and TFC can boast about another Canadian on the senior roster.

But, we’ll see how the gamble pays off if Roberts actually has to play. What if Milos Kocic gets hurt? Will Roberts be able to step up and soak up the pressure of playing at a Division-One level in North America?


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  1. Al Clark

    April 26, 2012 at 1:20 am

    The real question is, why doesn’t TFC have an U20/U21 (or even an U23) side? Not many players will be ready to go from U18 to MLS, even to the reserve side….seems an obvious oversight….one that the Caps and MTL have already put in place.

  2. Andre

    April 12, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I think this article is spot on. TFC’s academy has lost many good prospects recently. That being said, when we consider the fact that the Reds must first have produced those players, we can see that TFC’s academy has been a great success to date; it has produced a dozen quality youngsters to date, even if only half of them remain at TFC. At least they’ve got the production end of it right.
    Also, I do believe that this GK will be a professional, he looks good, TFC should not cop out by signing some American backup GK. That would be a short-term fix, and it would undermine the whole purpose of an academy. I hope this kid gets a shot!

  3. Stefan Caunter

    April 11, 2012 at 8:00 am

    There isn’t going to be much pressure. The team has a terrible defence and not much of a chance of getting out of the league basement. They might as well put the kid in. Gigi Buffon couldn’t help TFC stop balls from going in the net. The team is built for international play, that is Winter’s strength. In league play, its style makes little sense given the lack of quality at key positions.

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