TORONTO — Vancouver Whitecaps teenage star Alphonso Davies appears headed to Europe. Toronto FC fans are wondering whether fellow Canadian Jonathan Osorio may also soon be on the move.
The 26-year-old midfielder from Brampton, Ont., has been one of the bright spots in a tempestuous season for the MLS champions. Deft on the ball and with the vision to create, Osorio has started 18 of Toronto's 20 league games this season and is a leading contender for team MVP honours.
He leads Toronto in scoring with seven goals this season yet his salary, listed at US$209,825 by the MLS Players Association, ranks 13th on the team (14th if you include the recently departed on-loan midfielder Ager Aketxe).
While soccer is a global sport, it can be a small world. Others will have taken notice of Osorio's skills.
Osorio, who already has international experience from a stint in Uruguay prior to joining Toronto, has made no secret of his soccer ambitions. He wants to test himself at the highest level.
But he acknowledges he is not sure of what lies ahead.
"I don't know if it's the right time, to be honest. And I don't know it it's going to be that simple that I wake up one morning and know it's the time (to move on)," he said after training Monday. "If it comes, it will come when it's supposed to."
"I don't know what's going to happen," he added. "I just know I'm here now and I'm happy here in Toronto. So we'll see."
Osorio showed his savvy on Saturday with the deciding goal in a much-needed 2-1 win at Chicago. After goalkeeper Richard Sanchez failed to corral a through ball aimed at Osorio by Marky Delgado, Osorio collected the ball at the side of the goal and coolly waited for defender Jonathan Campbell to slide past him before depositing the ball in the net.
"On that play I though it was clever of him to kind of ride the challenge with the goalkeeper and see what happened," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. "He didn't go hard, which means he didn't commit a foul. He kind of just rode it to see if the ball would pop loose.
"At that point, I think he does what Oso does, which is he kind of wriggles away or cuts it back or he does something a little bit and next thing you know he's got an open net. I just think he has a lot of confidence right now."
Confidence is key for Osorio, who is hard on himself. While he is regularly finding the back of the net this season, missed scoring chances in the past have dogged Osorio.
It likely didn't help that former Canada coach Benito Floro, for a time, inexplicably seemed immune to Osorio's talents on the field. But Floro has since moved on and Osorio, with 20 caps to his credit, is back in the national team fold.
Toronto has worked with him to eliminate the gaps in concentration caused by frustration at himself and others. It has worked and Osorio is firing on all cylinders.
"I feel like I've grown. I've improved a lot this season. I'm playing consistently," he said.
Osorio credits time as a teenager at Club Nacional in Montevideo, Uruguay, for helping harden him — and further his passion for the sport.
It helped speaking Spanish, thanks to his parents who come from Colombia. But it was still a hard road, facing cut-throat competition from fellow youngsters who had grown up dreaming of playing for the club.
"That was the most important move of my life — even aside from football, just growing as man," he said. "It was so crucial to me becoming the person and the player that I am now. I owe Uruguay so much, I'll never forget my time there."
His entree to the club came via coach Jorge Amura at the Clarkson Sheridan Soccer Club in suburban Mississauga.
He spent two years in Uruguay, starting in the under-19 ranks before making his way into the reserves before deciding to return home at the end of 2011. That led to an invitation from the TFC academy in September 2012.
Former manager Ryan Nelsen liked what he saw of Osorio at training camp in 2013 and the young midfielder went on to see action in 28 league games that year. There have been more ups than downs since, with Osorio now sitting at 159 league games in a Toronto uniform.
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