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Toronto FC manager says he loves Kyle Bekker, young midfielder is here to stay

12/05/2013 05:24 EST | Updated 02/04/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Toronto FC selected Kyle Bekker third overall in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft with much fanfare.

"We went into the draft thinking that he was the best footballer on the list," then Toronto president Kevin Payne said of Bekker, who was named MVP at the MLS Combine.

"Clearly the most sophisticated player tactically, he looked the most professional on the field," Payne said at the time.

Payne was fired in September and Bekker, a star midfielder at Boston College, saw limited action with Toronto as a rookie.

He started three games, playing in nine. In all, the 23-year-old from Oakville, Ont., spent 335 minutes on a pitch, leading some to wonder what the problem was.

Meanwhile, the Canadian national team kept picking Bekker.

At a September question-and-answer session with the TFC braintrust, the issue of Bekker's playing time was raised several times.

Several months later, Nelsen laughed when told some people still believe he doesn't think much of Bekker.

"I love the kid. He's not going anywhere," he said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

It's just a question of development, says Nelsen, noting Bekker was given a free role at Boston College.

"Is he good enough to have a free role in the MLS?" asked Nelsen.

"No, not many teams have players that have free roles. They better be very special if they do ... Now he has to fit in a system."

"It's a whole big learning experience and Kyle understands that,"

Nelsen added." If he was ready, he'd be playing. Trust me. Just like Jon Osorio."

Different players develop at different speeds, he said when asked about why Bekker sat while fellow rookie Osorio earned a starting place in the midfield.

Nelsen pointed to former Spurs teammate Gareth Bale.

"Tottenham offered Gareth Bale to every club in the league for something like a million bucks. They wanted to get rid of him. It just didn't click. Then all of a sudden it clicked."

The Toronto manager reeled off a string of young former teammates he had seen blossom — Andros Townshend, Phil Jones and Canadian Junior Hoilett.

And the number of talented players who started young and fell by the wayside "is way more common," he added.

"If you throw them in too early and they're not ready, I've seen it, it's catastrophic, it's detrimental."

Some other thoughts from Nelsen:

— On harmonizing schedule with other leagues around the world. "It's sort of hard to find the perfect scenario .... I don't envy the person who ends up having to pull the trigger on that decision."

— The winner of the Supporters' Shield for the best regular season record should get some kind of advantage in the playoffs, perhaps a second chance in event of a loss. "How they do that, I'm not sure but there should be a lot more reward for winning the Supporters' Shield," said Nelsen, who believes the regular season champion New York Red Bulls were probably the better team despite losing to Houston in their two-legged playoff. "But soccer's not as clear-cut as the other North American sports. Generally if you're the better team in the other sports, you'll win. But in soccer, it doesn't work like that."

— Toronto FC will once again divide its training camp between Toronto and Florida, where it will take part in the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic. Nelsen had wanted to take his players to Asia or Australia for games against teams in mid-season form but the idea was nixed by Payne. It's something Nelsen hopes to revisit in 2015.

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