While he is still yet to train with his new team, the Dominic Oduro era at Toronto FC officially kicked off on Saturday with the Reds 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.
The Ghanaian-born speedster stepped right into the team and played thirty effective minutes in the squadâ€™s final match before the World Cup break.
Both to their credit and to the consternation of some TFC supporters, the Reds brass have not rested on their offseason laurels and have continued to work to improve the teamâ€™s weaknesses even considering the fact that the squad is off to the best start in franchise history.
In that vein, the acquisition of Oduro could end up being a masterstroke move for Toronto FC.
Looking back on the teamâ€™s first eleven leagues matches of the 2014 MLS campaign, two positives that have stood out have been the teamâ€™s consistency with respect to delivering solid defensive performances and the goalscoring of striker Jermain Defoe, who has lived up to his advance billing and carried the team offensively.
However, if there have been two glaring deficiencies to date, they have come in the area of service to Defoe and the teamâ€™s lack of secondary scoring. If previous performances can be any indication, Oduro should be able to help in both areas.
The veteran Ghanaian forward scored 13 goals for Columbus in 2013 and, at 28 years old, he is basically now in his prime as a player, bringing both experience and top level athleticism to the pitch.
Asked about the qualities he brings to the lineup, several TFC players were open in expressing their excitement regarding the possibilities inherent in playing with their newest teammate.
â€œHis pace will be a massive threat against other teams,â€ TFC defender Ashtone Morgan told RedNation. â€œIt certainly was against us when we played against Columbus. Iâ€™m just happy to have him on our team because it makes us stronger as a team. With Dominic and Jackson, we now have two of the fastest guys in the entire MLS.â€
â€œI think Oduro has obviously played in the league, so he knows the league,â€ Veteran forward Dwyane De Rosario added. â€œObviously, he has a lot of pace and he gets himself into good scoring opportunities. He is definitely a good threat to have.â€
With pace being an especially important variable in an athletic league such as Major League Soccer, Oduroâ€™s quickness is something that puts defenders on edge and that often enables the Ghana International to engineer scoring chances for himself where slower players would be unable to.
Even more importantly, as teams look to key in on shutting down Defoe even more in upcoming matches, the presence of Oduro on the pitch should actually open up space for players like the England International, De Rosario and snake bitten DP striker Gilberto based on the fact that defenders will be especially concerned about not getting burned by the Ghanaianâ€™s blazing pace.
â€œObviously his pace is something that other teams need to be mindful of and have to pay close attention to,â€ De Rosario explained. â€œIt definitely does free up space for other players like myself.â€
â€œDominic is definitely a player that defenders need to watch and he can be a key player on our team,â€ Morgan added. â€œHis pace will definitely cause a lot of tension in opposition players and will open space for players like Jermain, Luke, Gilberto and Jackson. It will be good for us.â€
While it would have been expecting a lot for Oduro to have had a big time impact against the Earthquakes on Saturday given the fact that he didnâ€™t even fly into Toronto and join the team until Friday evening, he basically already looked more effective than the player he was traded for (Alvaro Rey) in his debut.
The World Cup break now comes at a fortuitous time for Oduro and the Reds. Even with TFC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen giving the players a week off, the squad will have basically two full weeks of uninterrupted training to integrate their newest attacking threat into the teamâ€™s formation.
In TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorioâ€™s estimation, integrating a player of Oduroâ€™s talents is something that should be achieved relatively quickly.
â€œUnfortunately, my passes didnâ€™t go through (against San Jose) â€“ but I was seeing his runs,â€ Osorio said. â€œThatâ€™s the important thing, especially since it is only our first game together. I think it can be a really good combination. His agility and his speed are great assets for this team and he will be valuable asset for the team for the remainder of the season. As long as he keeps making those runs, I will keep trying to find him.â€
While only time will tell how good Toronto FC will become as they continue to evolve and build chemistry through the remainder of the 2014 season, it is not a stretch to surmise that the acquisition of Oduro could be something of a missing piece that enables the squad to reach something approaching its full potential.