Will Jonathan Osorio remain at Toronto FC?
That was looming as the biggest question for TFC this upcoming off-season, as Osorio, a 26-year-old native of Toronto, was out of contract at the end of the 2018 MLS campaign, and he had a number of teams from abroad interested in him.
But Osorio has decided to remain in MLS, with TFC formally announcing that it has signed the Canadian midfielder to a new contract. Terms of the deal are not known, but club president Bill Manning stated during a Thursday afternoon press conference that the new contract will make Osorio one of the highest-paid Canadian players in the world.
Manning also revealed the deal involves Targeted Allocation Money, or TAM, a special pot of money that MLS clubs use to sign marquee players below the league’s Designated Player threshold. According to the MLS Players Association website, Osorio will make $209,825 this season, a true bargain and a modest sum considering what he’s meant to TFC in 2018.
Osorio had previously expressed a desire to leave MLS in order to test himself abroad, and sources told Sportsnet that clubs in Mexico and Europe were interested in the Canadian. One official from a prominent South American team also told Sportsnet they had been monitoring Osorio in recent months.
“Honestly I’m really happy that we got this done. I’m really happy that I’m going to be home,” Osorio told reporters during Thursday’s news conference.
“I’ve worked really hard to be at this point, to make it to this point. Saying that, I’m not done. There’s a lot more I want to accomplish and there’s a lot more I want to accomplish for Toronto, for the city, for the fans and for this team.”
This represents a major coup for TFC. Osorio is enjoying a career season in 2018, and he has been one of the lone bright spots on a side that is in danger of failing to qualify for the MLS playoffs. He’s playing the best soccer of his career and is trending in the right direction while still in his mid-20s.
Osorio ranks second on the team in league scoring with nine goals this term, and a team-high 16 in all competitions. Osorio played a starring role in TFC’s run to the CONCACAF Champions League final, as he was named to the tournament’s all-star team and finished tied with teammate Sebastian Giovinco as the competition’s top scorer with four goals.
Osorio has also proven to be incredibly durable for a Toronto team that has been ravaged by injuries. He ranks second on TFC in minutes played in MLS with 1,982 (behind only captain Michael Bradley, at 2,137). When you add in his appearances in the Canadian Championship (he scored three times and was named tournament MVP), nobody has played as much and meant more to TFC this year than Osorio.
What has stood out most this season about the Canadian is his composure in front of the goal. In past years, he routinely snatched at shots, and scoring chances often went begging. This year, he’s playing with a high level of confidence, and you just feel as though he can’t miss, and that he’s going to bury it whenever he breaks in on goal.
With Jozy Altidore out injured most of the year and Giovinco not scoring with his usual regularity in MLS, Osorio has firmly established himself as TFC’s most dangerous attacking threat. He’s also become far more efficient with the ball at his feet, always looking to pass on to a teammate and keep the ball moving, rather than linger while in possession and trying to beat players on his own as he did so often before.
Osorio is TFC’s all-time leader in appearances (202) in all competitions, having made his debut for the Reds in 2013. He’s also tied with Dwayne De Rosario as the club’s third all-time leading scorer, with 33 goals in all competitions.
Credit must be given to both TFC coach Greg Vanney and former Canadian national team coach Octavio Zambrano, who pushed Osorio to add more defensive elements to his playing style so he can become more of a two-way midfielder.
Osorio accepted the challenge with good grace, and he has become a more well-rounded player because of it. There have also been far fewer lapses in concentration, and he no longer losses his cool – at himself and at others.
“I feel like I’ve grown; I’ve improved a lot this season. I’m playing consistently,” Osorio said.
Others have noticed the difference in the Canadian, most notably Toronto captain Michael Bradley, who has never been one to suffer fools gladly, and is renowned for holding his teammates accountable.
“He’s been very good, there’s now two ways about that. The part that everybody sees is the goals, and he’s [scored] some very important goals for us, so that part has been great. But his continued growth and improvement has been great to see,” Bradley offered.
“He’s a guy who at different times over the last few years, it’s not always gone perfectly for him, it’s not always gone his way. But his mentality to keep at it, to keep working and to keep trying to improve himself has meant that he always comes out stronger for it.”