Toronto FC drafts Indiana winger Dorsey with first-round pick

Griffin Dorsey, left, in action for the University of Indiana. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Looking to add some attacking width, Toronto FC used the sixth-overall selection at Friday’s MLS SuperDraft in Chicago to select University of Indiana winger Griffin Dorsey.

Dorsey, a 19-year-old who has played with the U.S. under-20 team, has the added bonus of being a “Generation Adidas” player, a special distinction given to NCAA underclassmen who won’t count against the league’s salary cap.

This past off-season, Toronto coach Greg Vanney talked about needing to add some depth on the wings, preferably someone with speed.

“You have to have wide players who can hurt the opposition. You can’t play through the middle of the field. Teams defend us through the middle of the field and play us in transition,” Vanney explained during TFC’s end-of-season press conference last October.

“If you can’t hurt [opponents] on the outside, you can’t make them respect the wide areas, and if you can’t make them respect the wide areas then you can’t go through the middle because it’s going to be too dense.”

Dorsey could give TFC some attacking width, as he is noted for his quickness and versatility. Although a right-sided player by trade, Dorsey said he’s comfortable playing on either flank. He scored eight goals and tallied 11 assists in his two years at Indiana. He was also named to the All-Big 10 Conference first team and was a second-team All-American in 2018.

“I like to think I’m a speedy player who likes to get around the outside [and] get crosses into the box. I can play [as an] outside back, I can play forward. I can play whatever the club needs from me,” Dorsey told reporters during a conference call shortly after being drafted.

Added newly-hired TFC general manager Ali Curtis: “He’s a very talented player… We feel lucky to have been able to draft him at the number six spot.”

During his podium speech at the draft, Dorsey took the time to honour an eight-year-old boy named Caleb Anderson who he recently befriended. With the young boy in attendance at the draft, Dorsey said, “I play for you, Caleb.”

According to Dorsey, Caleb is battling a number of serious medical problems. He also wears a mask because his white blood cells are decreasing. Caleb was introduced to Dorsey and his Indiana teammates prior to a game against Maryland this past season. The Hoosiers won 2-1.

A native of Colorado, Dorsey wasn’t too surprised that he ended up going to Toronto, noting the Reds expressed their interest during an interview they had with him at last week’s MLS Player Combine in Orlando.

“I think I showed pretty well at the combine, and they put their trust in me. I’m excited to get started,” Dorsey stated.

TFC defenders Drew Moor and Eriq Zavaleta also played at Indiana during their collegiate careers. He also knows TFC forward Ayo Akinola, a fellow U.S under-20 international.

“It’ll be nice to have Hoosier family around … and it’ll be awesome to have that connection,” said Dorsey, who admitted he’s never been to Canada before.

Toronto has had a hit-and-miss track record at the draft in recent years. Alex Bono (sixth overall in 2015) currently serves as the Reds’ starting goalkeeper, while defender Nick Hagglund (10th overall in 2014) has been a semi-regular starter. Both played key roles in TFC’s treble-winning season in 2017.

Defender Brandon Aubrey, a first-round pick in 2017, left after one season without even playing an MLS game for Toronto FC. Defender Tim Kubel and goalkeeper Drew Shepherd, the club’s top two picks at No. 28 and No. 46 overall last year, were also released without seeing any MLS action.

Other TFC draft picks in recent years who didn’t work out and are no longer with the team include Skylar Thomas and Oyvind Alseth.

In the second round, the Montreal Impact selected Maryland midfielder Amar Sejdic with the 34th pick. At No. 35, the Vancouver Whitecaps picked up Georgetown University defender Brendan McDonough. Unlike Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver didn’t have selections in the first round.

TFC used the 39th pick on midfielder Adam Wilson from the University of Louisville. Curtis admitted he was surprised that Wilson was still available.

“He’s hungry. We have a need at the [midfield] position … and he adds to that midfield base that we’re looking for,” Curtis offered.

Friday marked the first MLS draft for Curtis with Toronto, who recently replaced Tim Bezbatchenko as GM. A former forward at Duke University, Curtis was selected second overall in the 2001 draft by the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny.

“Both players [that TFC drafted], we feel, have the right personality characteristics that fit well with the club. … We think they could be good additions for our club,” Curtis told reporters.

3 Canadians in top 10

FC Cincinnati, who will debut this year as the newest expansion franchise in MLS, kicked off Friday’s draft by using the No. 1-overall pick on UCLA midfielder Frankie Amaya.

A Canadian player went No. 4 overall when FC Dallas selected defender Callum Montgomery (from Lantzville, B.C.) out of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Two other Canadians went in the top 10. University of Maryland goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair (Pickering, Ont.), was picked seventh by Minnesota United. Syracuse midfielder Tajon Buchanan (from Brampton, Ont.) went at No. 9 to the New England Revolution.

Syracuse defender Kamal Miller (from Toronto) went in the second round (27th overall) when he was picked by Orlando City. Simon Fraser University midfielder Mamadi Camara (from Montreal) was selected by the San Jose Earthquakes 46th overall.

The first two rounds of the draft were held Friday. Rounds three and four will be conducted via conference call on Jan. 14.

Before the draft kicked off on Friday, MLS commissioner Don Garber paid tribute to Sigi Schmid, the winningest coach in MLS history. Schmid died on Christmas Day. He was 65. Garber announced that the MLS coach of the year award had been renamed the Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year award.

TOP 10 PICKS AT THE 2019 MLS DRAFT

1) FC Cincinnati: Frankie Amaya (UCLA, midfielder)

2) San Jose Earthquakes: Siad Haji (Virginia Commonwealth University, midfielder)

3) Orlando City: Santiago Patino (Florida International University, forward)

4) FC Dallas: Callum Montgomery (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, defender)

5) Colorado Rapids: Andre Shinyashiki (University of Denver, forward)

6) Toronto FC: Griffin Dorsey (University of Indiana, midfielder)

7) Minnesota United: Dayne St. Clair (University of Maryland, goalkeeper)

8) Houston Dynamo: Sam Junqua (University of California, defender)

9) New England Revolution: Tajon Buchanan (University of Syracuse, midfielder)

10) FC Dallas: John Nelson (University of North Carolina, defender)

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