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Toja gets Colombia call-up (and what it means for MLS)


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When Colombian midfielder Juan Toja left FC Dallas for Steaua Bucharest via transfer this summer, the transaction went relatively ignored, overshadowed by the reports and rumors surrounding Kenny Cooper’s potential departure, as well as other MLS transfers in the works. Less than three months later, the move is starting to have more significance than people realize.

Toja has enjoyed success with Steaua, earning playing time in the UEFA Champions League and showing enough to earn a call-up by the Colombian national team for important World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Brazil this month. These developments are very important because they show that a young foreign player can come to MLS and play well enough to make the next step to Europe and to their national team.

This is crucial for the league’s efforts to attract young talent from across the globe because the path from MLS to Europe has been dominated by young Americans. Players such as Amado Guevara and Carlos Ruiz have come to MLS and done well but actually having a young foreign player take the path that Toja did, and successful use MLS as a stepping stone, is only going to help more young foreign talents choose to give MLS a try.

What do you think of this development? Do you believe Toja will be a trailblazer, paving the way for more young foreign talent? Share your thoughts below.


  1. To view the league as a stepping stone to greater things is a step up for MLS and shows that things are progressing as exposure and quality of play increases.

    Say, Ives, why dontcha list all the young talent which is movin’ on up? It’s not just Latin Americans y’know – what about Nigerian Olympic silver medallist Emmanuel Ekpo or NJRB’s new acquisition Mac Kandji? The Africans in MLS are exploding!

    And I’m sure if we all paid a bit more attention the league execs would be all too happy to be able to market the sport to a demographic underrepresented in the bleachers!

  2. I hope, years from now, we all can agree that MLS is a good challenging league that can help a player grow and improve and if he so desires, go onto better things. I’d be cool with that.

  3. Pat and everyone else,

    Every league in the world except the top 4 are stepping stones to bigger leagues. And because we don’t have UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup, our level of competition will never be that of Europe’s. So all things being equal, players will choose Europe over the USA even if we had the same salaries. Face it, unless MLS somehow joins UEFA, it will always be a stepping stone to bigger things.

  4. Ives,

    Your interpretation is possible, but I see another interpretation: Toja has certainly not improved his game over the course of the past two months–he is essentially the same player he was with Dallas throughout the year. However, bc he was playing in MLS, the national team would not call him bc of the stigma attached. As soon as he’s in Europe, there’s no more stigma and all of a sudden he’s good enough to play on the national team. The fact that JPA hasn’t been called up is a more support for this argument. Or, none of this could be true and the simple fact could be that the new coach happens to like Toja from his youth days and called him up, regardless of where he is playing now. I hope young players see it the way you see it, but it discourages me that Pinto and Osorio talk all the time and not once did Pinto pull the trigger on an MLS player during his tenure.

  5. For the record Roberto, I would rather wear a Fidel Castro jersey before I wore a Donovan jersey, and I love the Nats. Just sayin’. 😉

  6. Butthurt MLS whining? THAT’S impossible. Can’t be true! *_*

    MLS could be a stepping stone league. Will MLS HQ allow it? The answer points to a clear NO with their actions regarding (failed) transfers of Johnson and Twellman. MLS bosses only need to be jackasses about transfers, and potential players from abroad would see Mexico and other leagues as more beneficial

    @NorthDallasForty, that’s rather interesting. Could you cite a few sources/links regarding that? Thanks


    Hyndman must be going to bed thankful that he got rid of those two rejects. He must be thinking of sending Toja and Alvarez greeting cards to express his best wishes in their pursuit of new non soccer related careers.

  7. I don’t think most people will see MLS as a stepping stone to getting called into their respective national teams, unless you’re maybe from a CONCACAF nation. A stepping stone to Europe? Sure I’ll give you that, but the act that getting his first cap as soon as he moved to Europe, whether it’s the Romanian league or not, indicates to me that MLS experienced still isn’t valued outside of CONCACAF.

  8. It’s just one guy, hardly a trend. He also was probably called up becaust he’s playing for Steau Bucharesti in the Champions League (and doing well), not because he had played in MLS. In fact, had he still been playing at MLS, perhaps he would not have been called up.

    So really Toja is just an isolated incident of a young int’l making a good European transfer from MLS. Until it’s repeated, I wouldn’t call it a viable path.

  9. socceraddict,

    The Brazilian you’re thinking about is Ricardinho. FC Dallas acquired him from CAP and dropped him, supposedly for some work ethic and attitude concerns.

  10. Unfortuately, Juan Toja underachieved in his time at FC Dallas. He did not take advantage of his talent tending to disappear from games. Its interesting that after Hyndman entered as coach he wasn’t very impressed with Toja or Arturo Alvarez and shipped them to other teams. One factor, that I belive contributed to their departure, was their game-time inconsistency and passive training habits. A comment was made when Hyndman obsevered his squad stating that some players were lacking a good work ethic. Now they are gone incluiding the brazilian(I cant remember his name.

    Im glad to see Toja getting his chances with Colombia. They definitely need some help for the remainder of the qualifiers. Previously, Toja expressed intersts in playing for the USMNT when he got his us passport but will now be cap tied. Congrats!!!!!

    Hopefully the inclusion of Pachuchas Torres will bolster the attractiveness of the USMNT for American/Latin originated players. Good Luck Torres

  11. sorry jimbo, didn’t mean to offend you persoanally and I appreciate the way u responded. I’m not blind and realize what the limitations are at MLS.. Its not the talent & players which I defend. Its the people sitting in the offices making the decisions. As for fans, what frustrates me (I’m not saying you now ) is that I wish there was more support and less “foreign jerseys”in the stadium. In all my trips to S America I’ve never seen a single fan wearing a man u or any European jerseys.. Well at least in brazil and Argentina. People rather watch their own league than CL or UEFA.. They’d rather wear riquelme’s boca jersey than messi Barcelona jersey… Or lampard’s. Its pride, its not being blind. That’s how soccer nations develop, that’s how they are not third world (in soccer that is)

  12. I agree with roberto but the things is the contract with fc dallas was weird and he needed to move elsehwere out into europe. and bucharest is the team over and in the uefa cup so it not the question if romania has the better league it is just the position this one romanian team has. And you know what yes colombians arent stupid but there is something about the coaches or who ever on who to call up. and they never call up colombians that play in the MLS. Look at Olave he deserves to go to camp and so does conde to have a look. And especially Angel after coming to the U.S. he hasnt been called again becuz they disregard the MLS but they better not anymore. I am colombian and I say scout more colombians to join MLS and for colombia to pay attention to what is going on over here.

  13. Actually, Roberto, you make a lot of incorrect assumptions about where I’m coming from. I was in the Army and I was stationed in Europe (Germany) and while I enjoyed my time there I’m hardly in awe of all things European. However, top to bottom they just have better soccer over there period.

    I AM a USMNT fan and I enjoy MLS for what it is, a mid-level professional league internationally. I’m happy that a domestic North American league has finally started to take hold and looks like it might last and grow long-term after all. I’m just honest about where the league is at this point and I don’t have blinders on thinking that Major League Soccer is at a level right now in its development to start attracting young world-class talent yet. It doesn’t have the money, facilities, infrastructure, training or experience nor should it be expected to. The rest of the world has had a 75 to 100 year head start on the U.S. and soccer is maybe our fifth most popular professional team sport. Even with that, you’re right, outside of Europe’s Big 4 leagues, top teams like Columbus could probably compete with many teams in leagues around Europe. However, you can’t seriously tell me that only 10 to 15 teams around Europe would dominate teams around MLS. MLS teams have trouble enough with their fellow CONCACAF competition and only All-Star MLS assemblages have been able to compete with and win in friendlies against disinterested European sides still in their preseason. Until it builds and improves further I’m withholding any judgement that the best young international talent will be flocking to MLS in droves.

  14. I don’t care what the rankings are.. I’ve never been impressed of what I’ve seen from Rumania other than hagi and crackhead Mutu there’s no reason for me to believe that Rumania is a better league. Ok guys I’m done with this discussion.. You know what? I don’t care about Europe I’m more influenced by one mentality that comes from my S American background.. I don’t care about the rival, I am not in awe of “the big money teams” that’s why arg and Braz win everything there is to win.

    that’s how I wish players and fans would think over here.

  15. are wrong , so wrong, what you say about European football applies only to about 10 or 15 teams that MLS can’t compete with.. Maybe even less.

    You are the typical US fan that would rather wear a messi or zidane jersey rather than Donovan’s or Howard. And that’s sad. The typical fan who does not fully understand the game and is in awe of all things European. I’m tired of seeing all this destructive criticism and comparisons to European football which is not that great .. With the exception of Spain.

  16. Roberto, the following ranking is from Ives’ last Q&A. I think this definitely means the Romanian league is better than MLS. That is, unless you rate MLS over Holland and Portugal.

    “So you want me to rank leagues five through 14? Jeez. Seriously? I’ll leave it to UEFA, which has its own ranking system for its leagues. Here’s the Top 20:



















  17. It will be a waste if FCD and other MLS can’t attract more young players off of this precedent. A stable pipeline of young, promising foreigners would be HUGE for MLS.

  18. not to worry

    I mean, Rumania is considered a better league than MLS?? Pllllease!! That’s what a lot of you are trying to imply.. Does that mean Moldovia is better than us just because its Europe and in champions league region?

    I don’t think colombians are that stupid and have been following toja from way before his short tenure at steaua

  19. Hard to say yet that Toja will be a “trailblazer”. He was a nice talent at FC Dallas though he definitely underachieved for long stretches of time as well. His success is certainly a good development for MLS but let’s not overplay it here. I doubt most of the best young stars in for example Latin America and Africa are going to suddenly see MLS overall as a hotbed of young international world-class talent or a natural place to develop one’s game to prepare for the highest levels. The problem is Major League Soccer still just doesn’t have anywhere near the technical or strategic sophistication of most of the top leagues in Europe and the speed and quality of play there is just in another gear, especially in the areas of defensive organization, counterattacking and finishing. Though the level of MLS has greatly improved since its founding there are still too many slow, dull matches on poor artificial surface pitches with sparse support filled with wobbly passing, ill-timed runs, open shots well off-goal, incredible defensive lapses (5-4 matches?) as well as inconsistent, bewildering officiating. Most field players in Major League Soccer simply wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rigor and pressure over the course of a season in, say the Premier League. Also, many of the bad habits and technique that young MLS stars picked up in the league wouldn’t translate overseas (i.e. Eddie Johnson). I still don’t see European clubs for the most part taking MLS seriously as a training ground for international talent yet. Though it’s getting better Major League Soccer still has a lot of growing up to do. In the meantime most of the best talent around the world will continue to be channeled through the youth training programs in the top clubs of the Big 4.

  20. I agree that a call up while in Dallas would mean more, but it’s still a step in the right direction. Hopefully Jaime Moreno and Bolivia can make some noise in qualifying!

  21. I’m with pwip and freddy – I find it insulting that he played very well for Dallas in MLS and never got a call-up but he goes to Europe and suddenly he gets called in, as if somehow he blossomed into a national team-caliber player in his 2 months in Romania.

    While I agree with Ives point that foreign young players using MLS as a stepping-stone to Europe is a good thing, the fact that it took leaving MLS to get called-up by Colombia isn’t so good.

  22. If I remember correctly, Toja was actually about to get called up last year just before he injured his ankle. That would have meant even more.

  23. That’s half-full kind of view.

    The impression we received when Toja left was the Columbian National Team had zero respect for the quality in the MLS. As well as he played last year to not receive a look accelerated his departure. I think the message is MLS is still bush league. Do something against real competition. MLS is a wasteland of overpaid over-the-hill DP’s, college overachievers and foreign wash-outs.

  24. I hope so. With the expansion teams steadily joining we’re going to need an influx of talent just to keep the games halfway entertaining.

    The Dallas-San Jose game last night was terrible…

  25. “I realize that it’s an important step, but I’m not sure I want MLS to be seen as a ‘stepping stone’ league … I’d rather see talent come into the league and stay.”

    We’re going to have to work hard to even get the “stepping stone” stage. It’s better than the “elephant graveyard” view MLS and the NASL have had worldwide.

  26. Hey Ives,

    I am not heckling you but, it should be noted that when Toja left you weren’t that concerned and didn’t really care about it. Here is what you wrote:

    “Toja transfers to Steaua

    FC Dallas midfielder Juan Toja finally made his highly-publicized move to Steaua Bucharest on Friday, ending weeks of speculation.

    Before you go calling the move devastating, I would like to state that Toja hadn’t performed at a truly high level since about August of 2007 and his departure won’t be that detrimental to an FC Dallas squad with other options in the midfield (including newly-signed Viktor Sikora). With rookie Eric Avila showing the promise that had so many people high on him heading into the 2008 MLS draft, and newly-acquired Bruno Guarda expected to compete for time, FC Dallas has done a good job of stockpiling a boat-load of young talent.”

  27. I wouldn’t speak so fast. Toja had to pull a lot of nonsense to get a ticket out of Dallas and MLS. There was a “miscommunication” about his year two bonus, and after getting feelers from Euro teams, Toja “adjusted” his level of play to make sure MLS was forced to ship him. I wouldn’t exactly call this a “win-win”.

  28. I realize that it’s an important step, but I’m not sure I want MLS to be seen as a ‘stepping stone’ league … I’d rather see talent come into the league and stay.

    Perhaps another benefit to the league is that having MLS players move to other leagues and succeed (and get national team call-ups) will help validate the quality of MLS. We might not be the best league in the world, but we’re better than we’re given credit for.

  29. I sure hope so.

    I’ve been following him in Romania via Champions League. I liked him in the league, since he stood out with his play and personality mullet and all.

    It’s good for the league and if I was an MLS scout I’d head to Colombia. Theres bargains to be had.

  30. A true win-win.

    Inaddition to Ives point on the view to young potential players. It is another example for Europe to keep an eye on things over here.


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