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Left Back Donny Toia Quietly Becoming a Key Player for Orlando City

Making the most of his defensive skills, the fullback is an important piece on the Lions’ effective back line.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Columbus Crew SC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City SC is getting impressive production from its new additions on the 2017 Major League Soccer season. Jonathan Spector’s defensive skills, Will Johnson’s energy and Giles Barnesversatility are already reasons for praise among the Lions’ fans, but what about Donny Toia?

Acquired by the Lions in December at the expense of a 2017 first-round SuperDraft pick, which was sent to Atlanta United — the team that had selected him from Montreal Impact in the MLS Expansion Draft — the 24-year-old is delivering exactly what was expected from him: a solid defensive presence at the left-back position.

Toia was brought to solve a chronic issue the Lions faced during their first two MLS campaigns at the left back position with players such as Luke Boden and Brek Shea struggling to get the job done. The club also signed Brazilian Victor “PC” Giro, who seemed to challenge Toia’s starting job during preseason, but the Tucson native solidified his incumbent role to the point that PC is yet to play for Orlando’s first team.

The left back is performing very well on the defensive end of the ball, averaging 3.2 tackles (third on the team), 0.6 blocks (third), 3.4 clearances (fifth) and 1.2 interceptions (sixth) according to WhoScored.com. His presence can also be noticed thanks to the fact that only one of the four goals the Lions conceded so far — the Philadelphia Union’s one — was created on the side Toia defends.

Toia has been tasked to defend some dangerous wingers, as New York City FC’s Jack Harrison, Columbus Crew SC’s Ethan Finlay, and LA Galaxy’s Romain Alessandrini, who found more space to operate and scored when he started to move more centrally, and enjoyed relative success against each of them.

With things going well on the defensive side, Toia should focus now on improving his offensive game. He is not a consistent presence up front, recording only one goal (against Orlando City, in 2015) and two assists over his 84-game MLS career.

Even though his defensive solidity is allowing right back Scott Sutter to become one more offensive weapon to Orlando City, Toia should be required to show up more frequently in the final third of the field if Head Coach Jason Kreis, who worked with him on Real Salt Lake in 2011, sticks to the 4-4-2 diamond formation.

At the age of 24, Toia, who recently signed a three-year contract extension with the Lions, still has a lot of time to improve, but it’s undeniable that he is already a key player to the team.