By NICHOLAS MURRAY – email@example.com
Saturday, February 27, 2016
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – After his first professional season with Toronto FC II, Mo Babouli’s offseason goal was to put himself in position to become a member of Toronto FC’s MLS squad.
As Week 1 of the 2016 MLS season approaches, Babouli appears to have done just that.
The lone member of the squad not currently signed to an MLS contract with the team in St. Petersburg for its final preseason game against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at the Suncoast Pro Soccer Classic, Babouli put in a final 45 minutes to make his case to Head Coach Greg Vanney and his staff.
Whatever happens, Babouli believes the experience of spending a full preseason alongside the likes of 2015 MLS Most Valuable Player Sebastian Giovinco, and U.S. internationals Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore has helped him feel comfortable in an MLS environment.
“Yeah, definitely,” Babouli said. “The guys around me are making me feel comfortable, and taking in all the positives and the negatives that they have to give me, feedback in training and games, and moving forward from that.”
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Babouli led TFC II with four goals and four assists in the club’s inaugural season in the USL. While the season didn’t see as many victories as the side would have liked, Babouli said going through a full season as a professional was a big learning experience for him.
“It was a good experience, learning to be a young pro,” Babouli said. “All the traveling, all the games away, just taking positives from the experiences that we had, positive or negative. There’s always a learning step. It was good last year, and now just moving forward.”
This preseason he was accompanied by a number of players from TFC II for MLS preseason, including the likes of Wesley Charpie and Skylar Thomas as they looked to try and make the step up to the top flight. While there was a sense of camaraderie among the group, the reality of the competition for a roster spot with TFC remained at the forefront of Babouli’s mind.
“It was good,” he said. “You feel a little bit more comfortable with guys who you play day-in and day-out with, but at the end of the day you’re there to secure a job, and you’ve got to worry about yourself. Once you do that, you can have fun out there, but it’s business first.”
With Babouli the last man standing from that group, and Toronto having an open roster spot available, speculation is growing the Canadian U23 international will make the move up. Should that come, Babouli says he’ll remain focused on driving forward and building a long professional career.“I’m definitely going to be happy, but at the end of the day it’s a step forward, but it’s only the beginning,” Babouli said of a potential MLS contract. “You’ve got to keep grinding it out until you secure a spot, and even then you always set goals for yourself and keep moving forward.”