Quillan Roberts is quietly biding time knowing that his call will come for Toronto FC.
When it does, he will be unable to replicate the historic impact he made after replacing the injured Maxime Crepeau in goal for Canada’s second match against England at the 2011 International Football Federation (FIFA) Under-17 World Cup in Mexico.
With Canada trailing 2-1 with about three minutes left in regulation time, Roberts’ clearing kick from close to centre field skidded high off the wet outfield over the head of stunned English goalie, Jordan Pickford.
That was the first and only time ever that a goalkeeper has scored a goal in a FIFA tournament and the two-all draw provided Canada with its first point after 14 successive losses at the junior World Cup.
“It was just crazy after that,” said Roberts, who was the recipient of this year’s Harry Jerome Award for athletic accomplishment. “I was just trying to get the ball on my striker’s (Sadi Jalai) head and the next thing I knew it took a lucky bounce and was at the back of the net. It was a great feeling knowing that I had helped my team draw the game and secure a point.”
The product of Guyanese and Jamaican-born parents, Roberts was presented with his award just hours after Toronto FC dropped a 2-1 decision to the New York Red Bulls at BMO Field.
“It’s a great feeling being recognized by my community,” he said. “It feels good to be among other distinguished awardees. It’s a pity our team couldn’t pull out the win today.”
With Stefan Frei missing last year after breaking his fibula and damaging ankle ligaments in the preseason and Major League Soccer (MLS) pool goalkeeper Brian Rowe required to help out Portland Timbers, Toronto FC – with Milos Kocic as the only goalkeeper – promoted Roberts from its academy to the team’s main roster a year ago.
The elevation meant that the Heart Lake Secondary School student could not pursue the sport at the collegiate level.
“That was a difficult decision,” said Roberts, who is taking online courses. “But I think it was the right decision for me and I am happy I did it.”
At 18, he’s the youngest player on Toronto FC’s 27-member roster and the backup behind Joe Bendik, who has started in the club’s first nine games this season, and Frei – he broke his nose in a pre-season game against Columbus in Orlando last February – who made his first appearance since the injury in last week’s first leg Amway Canadian Championship semi-final against Montreal Impact.
“The older players don’t make me feel like I am the youngest among them,” said Roberts. “They teach me new things every day and are always there encouraging me. I am just soaking in the knowledge and working hard so that when my time comes to go in goal, I will be ready.”
Starting out in mid-field, the teenager changed position when his Under-12 coach asked him to keep goal.
“I have been there ever since and I enjoy it,” said Roberts, who idolized former Dutch and Manchester United goalie, Edwin van der Sar, who quit playing two years ago.
The young goalie made his Toronto FC debut last July as a second half substitute in a mid-season friendly against English club Liverpool at Rogers Centre. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.
BY RON FANFAIR