If the news that Toronto FC releasing forward prospect Stefan Vukovic from the academy has caught you off guard you are not alone. The news broke over the Easter weekend that the forward played for Montreal Impact U21’s in a 1-1 draw against USL side Rochester Rhinos, and it was later confirmed he has joined them on trial. However, apparently the decision was made much earlier, back in pre season training camp in Orlando, Florida.
As you may have gathered from previous articles I’ve written about Toronto FC Academy I was really high on Vukovic and felt he was ready to slowly get bled into the Toronto FC first team squad, being groomed in the “Danny Koevermans role”. He showed real promise, and in my opinion, really complimented the 4-3-3 formation the club is currently deploying. However, according to Academy Director Thomas Rongen the club didn’t rate him highly enough to make the jump and with two other promising forward in the academy they felt he would stand in the way of their development. One of these forwards is Jody Hamilton and the other is a young prospect the club wants to accelerate from U17 to U18 level.
One factor that clearly played a role in this decision is age, with Vukovic being born in 1993 he is now considered too old for the U18 program and a decision had to be made. Whether the club truly didn’t rate him, felt they couldn’t sign him or there are other factors entirely that aren’t being revealed, I’m sure the truth lay somewhere in the middle. However, the one question that for me is left unanswered at this point is why not trade him and get value in return?
While the two instances are not mirror images of each other, this reminds me slightly of the Keven Aleman situation. Regardless of which side you want to believe in that case the club ultimately ended up using him as the “future considerations” in the trade to acquire Terry Dunfield. If Toronto FC came to this decision back in pre season, it would have been an ideal time to explore and possibly orchestrate a deal, whether it be directly with Montreal Impact or involving a third party. In my opinion, TFC has many holes that need filling which can’t all be solved by throwing money at aging European stars, especially considering the money currently tied up in the three Designated Players. Regardless of what their feelings are about Vukovic, letting him go for nothing doesn’t seem logical.
At the end of the day this is a good change of scenery for the player himself, as he joins an academy that is building a strong core of players under respected Director of Player Development & Head Coach Philippe Eullaffroy. The Montreal Impact is arguably more desperate for a scoring punch up front than is Toronto FC and in Vukovic, along with other promising forwards coming up the ranks, the club has given its self options they can go in a pinch, options that won’t affect cap space. This move will also help Vukovic if he has plans on an international career with Canada. If this is the case playing games is priority #1 and from the sounds of it Toronto FC certainly wasn’t going to get that opportunity. Including Keven Aleman, Dylan Carreiro and Michael Petrasso this is now the fourth example of “high profile” academy players that have chosen to pursue other options.
While for me it’s disappointing to see him leave the club and a little painful to see him join Montreal Impact, I’d like to wish Stefan Vukovic all the best and hope this move opens up opportunities. Contrary to the opinions of others I feel he has what it takes to play in Major League Soccer and hope this move helps his career both for club and country.
For more views on this visit the following:
The11.ca - Impact confirms that Vukovic is on trial with U21 Academy
Sportsnet.ca - Vukovic not ready to make the jump, says TFC
Waking The Red - Vukovic with Impact U21