Toronto FC has sold Canadian international winger Jayden Nelson to Norway's Rosenborg BK.
The 20-year-old from Brampton, Ont., made 50 appearances across all competitions since joining Toronto as a homegrown player in January 2020. A work in progress, understandably so given his age, he showed plenty of flashes of his attacking skills in TFC colours.
But the moves were sometimes accompanied by questionable decision-making and ended poorly.
Nelson found himself behind Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi when the Italian stars joined the club midway through last season. The return of veteran attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez also likely meant reduced played time for the young Canadian.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Jayden and see his progress here at his hometown club," Bob Bradley, Toronto's coach and sporting director, said in a statement. "We knew Jayden always had the ambition to play in Europe, and when the right opportunity presented itself, we worked diligently with the player to secure the move.
"Jayden joined us as a homegrown player and we are excited for him to take the next step in his professional journey."
The sale represents a financial opportunity for TFC for helping develop Nelson, who earned US$136,585 last season.
For Nelson, who has already won four caps for Canada, it's a chance to further grow at one of Norway's leading clubs.
"It’s always been my dream to play in Europe and I couldn’t have asked for a better club to join at this stage of my career," Nelson said in a social media post that showed him signing his new contract. "I’m really excited to get to work now."
Located in Trondheim, Rosenborg's trophy cabinet features 26 league titles and 12 Norwegian cups. Former Canadian international goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld won a title there some 17 years ago.
Nelson's departure shines a spotlight on Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, an 18-year-old winger/wingback who has attracted attention from overseas clubs.
Nelson, the 12th member of TFC's 2022 first-team roster to depart the club, flew to Norway on Monday evening and completed his medical Tuesday.
He is no stranger to moving quickly.
Nelson made his pro debut with Toronto FC 2 in April 2019, turned 17 that September, represented Canada at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in November and was named Canadian Youth International Player of the Year in December. The same day he learned of the award, he got a call from Canada coach John Herdman inviting him to a senior camp in January.
He signed with TFC's first team as a homegrown player in January 2020, 16 days after making his senior debut for Canada and 13 days after scoring his first goal in a pair of 4-1 wins over Barbados.
"Jayden has all the tools to be a top player,'' TFC's then-GM Ali Curtis said at the time. "He's only 17, so we need to be measured with his development, but we believe he can be a very important player for both club and country.''
Nelson opened his MLS scoring account April 9, 2022, with a highlight-reel goal that secured Toronto a 2-2 tie at Real Salt Lake. After stealing the ball off RSL captain Damir Kreilach, Nelson looked up, saw goalkeeper Zac MacMath was out of position and fired it home from 35 yards-plus in the 79th minute.
It was his lone goal for the Reds.
Nelson made his first-team debut during the MLS is Back tournament in July 2020 against New York City FC.
In April 2022, Nelson gave back when he returned to Copeland Public School in Brampton, Ont., to fund a snacks program for its students.
Nelson, who attended Grades 1 through 5 at Copeland, called it a chance to share with his old school "the blessing that I have.'' For the young students in attendance, Nelson's return to the school was an opportunity to see anything is possible — even in their own backyard.
The snacks program was discontinued during the pandemic with many students studying online and limited opportunities to raise funds. Nelson made an initial $1,000 donation to relaunch the program with ATG Sports Management, which represents him, contributing an additional $500.
Nelson pledged to further support the program with monthly donations for the 2022-23 school year.
"This is just the beginning of something much bigger than just soccer,'' he told his young audience.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press