The 21-year-old Argentine midfielder told reporters that TFC's long courtship with him is what convinced him to make the move to Canada.TORONTO - Matias Laba is ready for the big expectations that come with the Designated Player tag in Major League Soccer.
The 21-year-old Argentine was introduced to the media on Saturday as the newest member of Toronto FC, and also as the league's latest young DP. It's a role that the former Argentinos Juniors captain says he's fully prepared for.
"I'm aware of the situation I'm in and the Designated Player rule," Laba said via a translator. "I come with many expectations and I put a lot of [faith] in myself, but I don't feel any type of negative feelings or anything.
"I'm very confident in what I do."
TFC president and general manager Kevin Payne said that most of the pressure will be on the club to ensure that its newest signing can fully adapt to a new culture and new playing system in short order. To that end, the team will be helping Laba learn the local language and will be partnering with the ex-pat Argentine community to make the midfielder's transition to Canadian life as easy as possible.
"We do have an English-language program that Matias will be entering," Payne said. "We also have a lot of support from the Argentine consulate here in Toronto, and they already have programs for people that are coming into Toronto from Argentina - ordinary people - but they have promised to provide extra support for Matias."
Payne said that the extra work needed to acclimate Laba to Canada and MLS will be worth it, as the young Argentine has been a target of his and head scout Pat Onstad since their days as staff members of D.C. United.
"Onstad and I have actually been watching Matias for well over a year, first when we were at our last club," Payne said. "As soon as we got here, we began to look into him again and check into his availability. Pat actually made a number of trips to Argentina [and] has seen Matias play this year four times live.
"Fran O'Leary, our assistant coach, also made a special trip to Argentina and saw Matias play live as well, and they were unanimous in their opinion that Matias was a player who would be outstanding in our league and a mainstay of our club for years to come."
For his part, Laba stated that he was looking forward to the new challenges that lie ahead with TFC. He also said that Payne's year-long pursuit was a big factor in him accepting the move to North America.
"For me it was a matter of Toronto being after me for such a long time," Laba said. "They really showed a lot of interest, and when it comes from a player's perspective and we see that another team is really wanting to put you in the team and do everything possible, that's what motivates me to come here to this team."