'Old head' on new Toronto FC talent

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:52 AM ET

Sam Cronin spotted the danger before anyone, shouting a warning to Carl Robinson, whose back was to BMO Field in a media scrum as the rogue ball whizzed past his head.

Cronin, the multi-tasking rookie Toronto FC midfielder, will take any opportunity, such as yesterday's close call, to reciprocate the kindness and soccer savvy passed on to him by Robinson and others.

Fellow freshman Stefan Frei has been getting most of the attention as the new No. 1 goalie, but Cronin has quickly made an impression with his new team a year after leaving school at Wake Forest for Major League Soccer.

"Carl and all the senior players offer me a lot of experience from playing the game around the world," said Cronin, MLS' second overall pick last year, as TFC readied for the New England Revolution today at BMO. "I look at Carl the most because he plays a similar position, but all the guys have been great.

"I still have a lot of work to do. I wasn't trying to be the best player in the league in the first five games. It's a long season and a long career and I just want to build a foundation."

But the North Carolina native has made giant strides, starting nine of 10 games and getting two assists with service as centre midfielder and right back.

"He has an old head on his young shoulders," the Welshman Robinson said. "He's got a great engine, so he's up and down the pitch all the time. He wants to learn and he is forever asking questions.

"If he keeps his feet on the ground and just gets on with his business -- which he is doing -- I'm sure he can go as far as he wants."

Robinson drew a parallel with Cronin and ex-Red Maurice Edu.

"This league can be hard on rookies, but if you're a good player, it doesn't matter how old you are," Robinson said. "I told that to Maurice when he was here. Everyone was building him up, but at the end of the day, people build you up to knock you down.

"As long as you know you're a good player, you know you will go through bad spells and a bad run of form, which happened to Mo. But he got to where he wanted to get (to Europe) and is doing very well.

"I'm sure there will be a time when Sam reaches a sticky patch, but he's a good man and a good player and I'll make sure he comes out of it. Young players have to realize that it's not all about the good times."

Cronin admits disappointment in some aspects of his game and the failure of TFC to sustain its early spring momentum. The 3-3-4 club has fallen back to the middle of the MLS East pack, though it produced two wins in the Canadian Nutrilite Championship.

"I've enjoyed the city," said Cronin. "Having gone to school near my hometown has made this (re-location) a bit different ... but I was excited just to be picked and to go to a different situation."

Coach Chris Cummins enjoys working with the 23-year-old.

"(General manager) Mo Johnston does his homework," Cummins said. "I went to a couple of (college) games with Mo who told me about this lad at midfield who was everything Mo said he was, a good footballer and good technician and athlete."

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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