Taylor Morgan eager to prove himself with TFC
English striker was drafted 58th overall by Toronto
Taylor Morgan is easy to spot at Toronto FC's training camp. Just look for the lean six-foot-four striker with an English accent and a beaming smile.
Drafted in the fourth round of the MLS supplemental draft (58th overall) last month, the 22-year-old from Southampton is living the dream.
"It's been amazing," said Morgan. "I really love playing football. To play football with players like [Julio] Cesar who's won the Champions League, [Torstens] Frings who's played in the World Cup final. Just to learn from those guys and talk to these guys has been a great experience for me."
Morgan calls his time in camp "really intense but at the same time really enjoyable."
Over the Christmas holidays, back home from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Morgan unknowingly took in his future manager from the stands at Loftus Road.
Morgan's father — who used to live in London — and younger brother both have season tickets at Queens Park Rangers. Taylor saw four QPR games with them.
"Ryan Nelsen was playing and then the news [that he was leaving QPR to manage Toronto] just came two days after I got back," he said. "We'd heard rumours that he had gone and we were obviously disappointed that he had left to the United States because he's a brilliant player."
Two weeks after Nelsen was introduced as Toronto coach, the club drafted Morgan.
"As soon as I heard that I was going to Toronto, it was crazy," he said.
There is another connection. Nelsen's right-hand man, assistant coach Fran O'Leary, has ties to George Mason having coached there.
Unlike the rest of his family, Morgan does not support QPR although he attended its academy. He is an Arsenal man.
At 185 pounds, Morgan sees himself as a hard-working, versatile forward. He can use his pace to get behind the defence but can also serve as a target-man, holding on to the ball to bring others into play.
Morgan's father player semi-pro soccer in England and used to take Taylor to training. His love for the sport was passed down to his son.
"From Day 1, it's always been football," said Morgan.
He spent four years in the Southampton academy — starting at age 10 — and two years in the QPR academy. When he was 16, he was faced with the "massive decision" of school or football.
With an eye to the future, he chose school.
Morgan spent two seasons with the England under-18 team while he continued his education, eventually opting for a U.S. college scholarship that allowed him to pursue both his studies and soccer.
"I really wanted to try something new and challenge myself," he said. "And I felt like going to the States gave me the best of both worlds."
He started at Central Connecticut and then transferred to George Mason for his final three years.
Morgan, the first George Mason player drafted in MLS since 2009, finished with 23 goals and seven assists in 50 matches for the Patriots. He scored 13 of those goals as a senior — in just 19 starts —to lead the Colonial Athletic Association.
He got more than a soccer education. He is only a few credits short of his psychology degree, which he hopes he can use down the line in continuing a career in soccer after playing.
Morgan fell in love with the Washington, D.C., area at school and got to see plenty of the U.S. with his soccer team — "places that you only see in movies really, for me anyway coming from England."
Chicago was a favourite and he likes what he sees in Toronto, although he knows he faces a difficult challenge to stay on. Coming from England, he takes up an international slot in MLS.
"I'm just trying to take every day as it comes really," he said. "Just obviously try and work hard, and try and impress Ryan Nelsen and hopefully something comes. I would love to stay here. I love the place and I love the people."
His father has been monitoring his progress from afar.
"Sometimes I think he's more nervous than I am ... He worries a lot more than I do, let's put it that way," Morgan said with a smile.