Why the Ashtone Morgan deal may help TFC retain more of its prospects By Steven Sandor Posted on July 5, 2012 1 0 558 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter The news that Toronto FC inked left back and reigning Canadian U-20 Player of the Year Ashtone Morgan to a long-term contract isn’t just good for the development of one of this nation’s brightest soccer talents. It was a very important message for TFC. For Morgan, who came into 2012 on a US$44,000 contract, it’s a major promotion. While, as per MLS policy, there were no financial terms disclosed, it’s safe to assume a decent salary bump. “We’re thrilled to sign Ashtone long term to ensure he remains with our club and continues to develop into a top defender in this league,” said Head Coach and Director of Soccer Operations Paul Mariner in a release issued by TFC, who are on a road trip at the moment. “Ashtone represents the present and future of this club and he is an important player for us. He is also a product of our Academy program and the current youth players can look up to Ashtone as an example of what the potential future holds for them.” And, that’s a very important message for Toronto FC to send out. Yes, the team has promoted a number of players from the Academy to the big club, but Morgan is the first one to break the entry-level cycle. There have been no Generation Adidas deals for any of the Academy prospects as they head up, so TFC hasn’t been able to basically grant them the free money a GA contract allows. So, TFC has had to manage its prospects. Still, until today, there was a perception — however fair or not — that TFC Academy was only producing players for discounted player purposes. No one was on what you’d call middle-class money (at least by City of Toronto standards), and there were some legitimate fears out there that the Academy kids of today could become the Gabe Galas and Nana Attakoras of tomorrow. Both Gala and Attakora were discounted local players with TFC; Gala was released, and Attakora was traded. While TFC assured that Attakora asked for the trade, there was a perception that the young Canadian had become a thorn by asking for a few dollars more. Yes, there were personal issues involved as well and, frankly, Attakora didn’t help his case by turning down contract offers — including one from Union Berlin — later in his career. But the point is this. If you are a parent of an Academy player, watching your son make sacrifices in order to excel at the game, you really aren’t that much different than having a son who burns the midnight oil so he can get into med school or law school. You don’t want to see them work so hard in their youth so they end up making $44,000 a year. And, until today’s signing, that was TFC Academy’s only selling point: You come here, you get an entry-level contract. And it’s clear that there was plenty of mistrust among parents about the TFC way. A quick look at the U-20 national roster that coach Nick Dasovic assembled shows a stunning number of TFC Academy diaspora. Keven Aleman, Jonathan Lao and Dino Gardner all left the team. Aleman and Lao went to Europe, but Gardner dropped down a division, as he’s now with FC Edmonton. Stefan Vukovic is also on the roster, but he was released by the Reds, he didn’t leave. We have also seen Dylan Carreiro and Michael Petrasso kiss TFC Academy goodbye. And it’s hard to blame players when they don’t see solid potential career paths ahead of them. It’s one thing to see an Academy player ahead of you signed to a minimum contract, it’s another to see that player get that key second contract. If TFC Academy doesn’t want its kids to leave when they get other offers, TFC needs to demonstrate that the end of the developmental tunnel is at a $40K deal. Today’s deal sends that message.