Time for TFC’s Jordan Hamilton to live up to potential and promise

Jordan-Hamilton

Jordan Hamilton, right, in action for Toronto FC. (Frank Gunn/CP)

TORONTO — Potential and promise are the two words that come up more than any others when people talk about Jordan Hamilton’s career path.

Hamilton, a 22-year-old native of Scarborough, Ont., was still a teenager when he signed with Toronto FC five years ago after spending three years playing with the TFC youth academy.

Fleet of foot and possessing a nice turn of pace, the young forward appeared well on his way to a successful rookie season in MLS when he made his debut for the Reds in a game against the Colorado Rapids in April of 2014.

But that was the only MLS game Hamilton played for TFC that year — he spent the remainder of the campaign on loan with the Wilmington Hammerheads in the lower-tiered USL. The following year, Toronto signed both Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, which meant Hamilton played the majority of the season with the TFC II farm team, as he made just two MLS appearances.

Hamilton’s career has followed a similar path the past three seasons, his opportunities with the senior team few and far between, either because of injury issues, loss of form, or having more experienced players ahead of him on the depth chart. There’s also been a sense that while he’s shown flashes of brilliance at times, he’s not come close to reaching his full potential.

In total, Hamilton has seven goals and three assists in 39 MLS appearances (21 as a starter) during his five years with TFC. Out of contract at the end of last year, Hamilton’s tenure in Toronto appeared to be over. But then, last week, the club announced they had re-signed the Canadian forward to a new deal.

Still, TFC coach Greg Vanney left no doubts that he believes Hamilton needs to prove himself in a big way during in 2019. It’s time for him to live up to his potential and promise.

“I think this is really an important year for Jordan. … He has to take another step forward,” Vanney told reporters as training camp opened last week.

TFC didn’t bring back Canadian forward Tosaint Ricketts for this season, and it doesn’t appear as though Argentine Lucas Janson will return on loan for the 2019 campaign.

As it stands, Hamilton will battle it out with fellow depth forwards Ayo Akinola (18) and Jon Bakero (22) for playing time behind the established pair of Giovinco and Altidore.

It’s a big opportunity for Hamilton to establish himself as the No. 3 forward. Vanney left no doubt that he’ll closely watch the battle between his depth forwards.

“There’s got to be a next guy who’s really ready, and the question is, is it going to be Ayo or Jordan,” Vanney said.

It’s clear that Vanney values Hamilton as a player. At the same time, he can’t afford to wait much longer for the young Canadian to show that he can consistently compete and play at a high level.

“I think Jordan needs to feel the responsibility of having to be accountable to the team for his performances and his results,” Vanney offered. “No longer is he a young player who kind of gets this developing pass. He’s got to prove that he’s ready to go now.”

TFC is currently in California for pre-season training camp. The Reds will then play Club Atletico Independiente in the round of 16 of the 2019 Concacaf Champions League, with the first leg scheduled for Feb. 19 in Panama and the return match a week later at BMO Field.

Toronto opens the 2019 MLS regular season on the road against the Philadelphia Union on March 2. Its home opener comes on March 17 vs. the New England Revolution.

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