TFC's Laba starting to stand out

TFC midfielder Matias Laba (left) challenges Matias Sanchez of the Columbus Crew for the ball...

TFC midfielder Matias Laba (left) challenges Matias Sanchez of the Columbus Crew for the ball during an MLS game in May. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:34 AM ET

TORONTO - Someones following Toronto FCs Matias Laba.

To training, to his English classes and, to a certain extent, the high-priced midfielders home.

Should TFCs 21-year-old, Spanish-speaking midfielder need something, Carlos Quiroga is just a phone call away.

As Labas full-time liaison, Quiroga, a former professional Argentine footballer himself, has to be. Its one of the behind-the-scenes details TFCS latest front office is getting right, the benefits of which are becoming more evident in terms of Labas progression over the past six weeks.

Im feeling more and more comfortable with the city and the environment as a whole, Laba told the Toronto Sun through a translator. The facilities are second-to-none and the way Ive been treated is second-to-none compared to South America.

Its that feeling of contentment if not comfort thats undoubtedly helped Laba showcase his abilities and turn more than a few heads every time out, most recently in TFCs 2-1 win at D.C. United.

Im very comfortable in the city, Laba said of Toronto. Ive got my own place already and everything is set up. Its like being at home.

On the pitch, too.

Theyre relatively similar, said Laba, who joined TFC through a record transfer fee from Argentinos Juniors in late April, in comparing the Argentine Primera Division to MLS.

There are slight differences, he continued. MLS might be a little more physical. In Argentina, it might be a little more technical or tactical. You have big, big players here just like they have in Argentina, so its very comparable.

One of the few non-comparisons, Laba mentioned, is something he was slow to get used to through the first few games after his arrival matches that saw the Reds traverse the continent before games in Colorado and San Jose. Its what might have led to his slow, if not unimpressive, start.

The first couple of games might have taken me a little more time to get used to because of the travel, climate change and other things, Laba explained. But Ive really settled in and I like this style of game.

I feel very comfortable with the physical aspect of (MLS).

Its what he was brought in to do go to war in the middle of the park while still being crafty enough to retain possession and play out of danger.

Last Saturday, Labas stats backed up an exceptional performance. In 90 minutes versus D.C., he completed 90% of his passes, recovered possession 17 times and suffered five fouls, a stark difference following Labas disconcerting start.

His performances have been very good, Nelsen said. Good players lift other players as well. The more we can get of that type of personality the better. From the first game to now hes progressed very well. But we still dont expect miracles from the guy. Hes still a young man. We just ask him to enjoy his soccer and do what he does best.

The things some supporters wont even notice getting out of tight spaces, retaining possession where previous midfielders would have lost it and recovering loose balls so as to not give opposing teams second opportunities.

Im getting more and more confident as the days go by, Laba said. Not only that, Im feeling more and more comfortable with my teammates . That said, I hope what I bring helps win games to get into the playoffs.

Nelsen and general manager Kevin Payne, hope so too.

Labas viewed as the first major signing by TFCs front office pairing, meaning anything less than continued, if not improved, success will see fans question the duos decision making.

Toronto FC was adamant about bringing me in, Laba said. I respected that from the get-go. I felt MLS was a good challenge.

A bigger challenge than those ESL classes?

More or less, Laba said in English, a smile appearing across his face.

TRAINING NOTES

-- Head coach Ryan Nelsen informed media Thursday that the club missed out on its principle summer target, saying the unnamed player signed elsewhere.

-- Nelsen said the Reds are still looking at three or four potential targets to get in when the summer transfer window opens next month.

-- The club confirmed Richard Eckersley, Stefan Frei and Danny Califf will not be available for Saturdays game in Houston.

-- Nelsen confirmed Toronto is in negotiations to sign centre back Steven Caldwell until the end of this season but that TFC is competing against a number of English sides for his services.

-- Centre back Doneil Henry was back training with TFCs first team after serving a red card suspension last weekend in TFCs 2-1 at D.C.


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