Herdman has high hopes for TFC's Marshall-Rutty in 2024

Toronto FC's new coach sees great potential in the youth academy graduate. But it's going to take a bit more time, he cautioned.  

Herdman has high hopes for TFC's Marshall-Rutty in 2024
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Still only 19, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty has been considered one of Toronto FC's brightest prospects ever since making his debut under Greg Vanney in 2020.   

Only 16 at the time, Rutty became the youngest player to ever play for the Reds when he came on as a second-half substitute against the Philadelphia Union late in the season.   

His playing time with TFC increased over the subsequent years while at the same time being linked with several big European clubs who had been tracking him. Named to the MLS 22 Under 22 list in 2022, Rutty seemed to have the world by his feet.  

But the native of Brampton, Ont., hasn't quite broken out in MLS since making his professional debut. In 51 league appearances (20 starts), Marshall-Rutty has only two assists to his credit, and he has yet to score a single goal.  

For all of Marshall-Rutty’s promise, there is a growing sense that he hasn’t quite lived up to the hype and expectations and that the youngster has more to offer, something he admitted to when he spoke to TFC Republic late last year. 

“For sure, 100 per cent, there’s more to come from me,” he said.   

New Toronto FC coach John Herdman sees great potential in the youth academy graduate and former TFC 2 standout. But it’s going to take a bit more time, he cautioned.  

“I still think there’s more growth to come before you see that best version of Jahkeele and I just keep asking people to be patient…. I think the environment now, it's probably more conducive for him to grow and to learn,” Herdman explained.  

Herdman has kept close watch on Marshall-Rutty since the end of last season and through training camp ahead of the start of TFC's 2024 MLS campaign this weekend. What’s impressed him most about the youngster is his willingness to learn and just how committed he is to improve his game.  

“He has a specific positional coach that he works with pretty much every day. That's what I loved about him. He literally was banging on the door for extra work. So, if anyone looks at this player and wonders whether he's in that sort of comfort zone because he's a young player that's come through early and probably being given a lot of opportunity, he's a kid that's absolutely committed to his growth, and he's on a journey to become a man. And that's all I'm encouraging him to be,” Herdman offered.  

TFC Republic Weekly: February 19-25
After a lengthy winter, Toronto FC kicks off its 2024 MLS regular season on Sunday away to FC Cincinnati.

The hope is that Marshall-Rutty can use his strengths – most notably his quickness and speed off the dribble – to his advantage in order to evolve into a more decisive player in the attacking third of the pitch.  

“He's got to take steps in a couple of years, but we have to be patient with him as well and I hope to see a better season from him, a more confident and more aggressive season this year than we did last year. I think he was a little bit gun shy last year and we're really encouraging him to be more aggressive and be ready to get fans out of their seats at the right time,” Herdman stated.  

He later added: “Particularly, he's been working alongside Lorenzo and when you work alongside Lorenzo, [Insigne] can do things and his timings are on a superior level. So, even to evolve alongside him with the movement patterns and what he expects as [Jahkeele's] head comes up, I think there's just been a lot of growth there.”  

At the end of the 2022 regular season, Toronto FC president Bill Manning revealed there’d been “strong” interest shown by clubs from abroad in Marshall-Rutty and Jayden Nelson. In the end it was only Nelson who moved when he was sold to Norwegian outfit Rosenborg BK for a transfer fee.  

Marshall-Rutty and Nelson grew up together in the TFC youth academy and they still keep in close contact with each other. Marshall-Rutty hopes to follow in his friend’s footsteps one day.  

Herdman believes that a strong showing for Toronto during the 2024 MLS season would move Marshall-Rutty that much closer to achieving his dream of one day playing European club football.  

“He's been really dialled in since October. I had a great conversation with him; we dug into what his aspirations are. He really does want to make it with this club, this city; [he] wants to win something. I think we both know that winning something at a club is a big part of maybe the longer-term step for him to go experience football at the highest levels,” Herdman said.  

At five-foot-seven and 154 pounds, Marshall-Rutty doesn’t cut an imposing physical presence on the pitch. But he uses his athleticism and fleet-footed movement to unbalance opposing defenders when he’s in possession.   

He’s also shown that he can cross with a left foot that is “absolutely at that next level,” according to Herdman.  

“What I've learned is physically he is an absolute specimen. There's [no one who] can match him physically in this club. He’s head and shoulders above any of his peers in terms of the volume of work [and] the quality of that volume as well. So, he's got the physical potential to play at the highest level; I've got no doubt,” Herdman raved.  

Marshall-Rutty saw his 2022 season go off the rails when he underwent a knee operation. But he rebounded last year by posting career highs in a single MLS season for appearances (22), starts (11) and minutes (1,146) – that's more minutes he played combined in the previous two campaigns.    

By all accounts, he’ll get plenty of opportunities again this year under Herdman, which will be crucial to his continued footballing apprenticeship.  

“I think the big shift for Jahkeele now is the growth element. He’s still learning the game. This is a young man, a really young man who has evolved into professional football, but when you're in pro football, the games become the teacher. And if you're not playing in the games consistently with the turnarounds, you're not learning your craft as deeply as you need to,” Herdman said.

(Top photo courtesy of Toronto FC)

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