Jayden Nelson earns Bob Bradley praise and sparks CanMNT conversation

Toronto FC drew 2-2 with Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium after hometown player Jayden Nelson equalized in the 79th minute to give his team a point.

Nelson’s goal is also his first in Major League Soccer history.

The 19-year-old is slowly finding his place in Major League Soccer, entering the 2022 season with 14 appearances for Toronto FC. Now, under new head coach Bob Bradley, the player has appeared in all six games this season in an attempt to become a crucial part of the team.

And their efforts do not go unnoticed.

“Look, I’m just talking about what I’ve seen working with Jayden this year, and I mentioned during preseason that he seems to be excited about the little things that get worked on every day. We’ve seen him in a more dynamic way, making more plays down the field in terms of getting away from guys, more times where his skill, his speed, his quickness draw attention,” Bradley said.

But the job is not done.

“I agree that Jayden has had a few moments where he’s gotten into the box and you think he’s about to make the right pass or finish a chance. That part has to keep getting better. But maybe a goal like tonight’s will make a big difference in that regard. He continues to show that he has quickness, he has speed, he has individual ability on balls where he can get away from somebody. We just have to keep working to put the whole package together.”

After the match, the young academy player reacted to the goal, describing it as “one of the best goals” he has ever scored.

“He’s definitely up there to score for my hometown club,” Nelson said of the moment. “It is definitely something that I will treasure for the rest of my life and look back on. I’d say this is one of the best goals I’ve ever scored, so I’m happy about that.

“I feel like it gives me more confidence to do things in the last third and it’s something that, as I’ve said several times, I’ve been working on. So I just got this off my back: All the youngsters already scored, so it’s finally my time now,” added Nelson.

His efforts also sparked World Cup buzz, adding to the conversion that he could be a part of Josh Herdman’s squad when Canada heads to Qatar. He has several months to remain a part of that conversation, working tirelessly in Major League Soccer to compete for a spot on that list.

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