Asante takes his kick

DEAN McNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:58 PM ET

VAUGHAN -- It doesn't matter to Richard Asante that his name was left off Toronto FC's roster on its website in the first week of pre-season indoor training.

After all, people have been underestimating the 21-year-old from North York his whole life.

The third-round (27th overall) draft pick in this year's Major League Soccer amateur draft, Asante is determined to earn a spot with the first-year club.

He has shown that kind of drive before.

In the 10 short years since coming to Canada from his native Ghana, Asante has learned a new language, succeeded in a new school system and practised his beloved soccer long and hard enough to win an athletic scholarship to the University of Syracuse.

It was with this same determination yesterday that Asante took to the indoor pitch at the Ontario Soccer Centre with the expressed goal of making it hard for Toronto coach Mo Johnston to leave him off the roster when the team starts its 2007 season in April.

"I think I'm holding my own right now," Asante said. "The practice (yesterday) was a lot faster than the two previous days of camp. The guys know the coaches are now starting to put a team together. That competition makes it a lot more fun."

His immediate goal is to play well enough to be part of the team that will go to Florida in two weeks for the outdoor training camp.

Johnston likely will take 26 of the 29 players who are either signed or on tryouts this week.

And while Johnston is on the record as saying that everybody has to earn their way on to the team, that is not exactly the case.

Newly signed Welsh midfielder Carl Robinson, for example, is skipping this week's practices and will join the team in Florida, guaranteed he'll be in the starting lineup.

The same guarantee goes for goalkeeper Greg Sutton and No.1 draft pick Maurice Edu, as well as a few others with professional experience like Jim Brennan, Ronnie O'Brien and Marco Reda.

In fact, there probably are no more than half a dozen players in camp who are on the bubble, Asante being one of them.

And some would say Asante -- at just 5-foot-5 and 160 pounds -- might be biting off more than he can chew in hoping to earn his first professional job.

"I have heard that lots," Asante said. "I heard it when I tried out for the Canadian national under-18 team, and again when I tried out for the under-20 team."

For the record, Asante made both of those squads.

Two players -- forwards Abdoulaye Ibrahim and Alecko Eskandarian -- obtained in pre-season trades were missing from yesterday's practice but are expected to meet up with the team in Florida.


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