Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Toronto FC Manager Ryan Nelsen Defends Team's Use of Canadian Talent

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Toronto FC Manager Ryan Nelsen Defends Team's Use of Canadian Talent

Article excerpt

Toronto FC manager stands up to critics

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TORONTO - Artificial turf and Canadian talent were two of the topics that had Toronto FC supporters riled up at a recent question-and-answer session with the MLS team's braintrust.

Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, shot down the turf question by saying it's a non-starter.

But the issue of how the team treats its Canadians kept coming back to the microphone.

"I'd like to see Canadians being played," said one fan. "I think that was one of the draws to me coming to this is to see Canadians play. I'm not seeing enough of it from this team."

"My concern is how you've treated the Canadian players since the beginning," lamented another supporter. "I've looked at the salaries every year and every year since Year One, the Canadian kids get almost the lowest pay across the board. Every year. And this will never work unless you start to respect the Canadian soccer player."

Manager Ryan Nelsen patiently answered the questions, pointing to local defenders Ashtone Morgan and Doneil Henry and midfielder Jonathan Osorio currently starting with rookies Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshman also in the squad. Goalie Quillan Roberts completes the TFC Canadian contingent with homegrown player Manuel Aparicio newly promoted from the academy.

Talented and young, said Nelsen.

"We have to nurture them. We can't throw them in the deep end, we can't scar them," he added.

They'll get their chance, he added, pointing to Sporting Kansas City star midfielder Graham Zusi, who made just nine starts in his first two MLS seasons.

Bottom line, said Nelsen, "I want more Canadian players on my team.

"Even when the Canadian (national) team goes and plays in Spain and they take all my players away and I can't field them for TFC, I'll take that hit. Not a problem."

The questions about the handling of Canadian talent took Nelsen by surprise.

"I was expecting a lot worse questions, to tell you the truth, but on that one I was a wee bit let down because no other Canadian team is producing the young kids that we're playing and giving them the opportunity," he said after practice Tuesday.

The Vancouver Whitecaps roster features three Canadians: midfielders Bryce Alderson and Russell Teibert and goalie Simon Thomas. …

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