It was a dream night for Toronto FC's rookie defender, Nick Hagglund, in Columbus on Saturday. The Cincinnati native made his Major League Soccer debut in front of friends and family at Crew Stadium, and showed why head coach Ryan Nelsen gave him the start. Hagglund played well beyond his years, and helped Julio Cesar earn his second clean sheet this season.
With both of Toronto's starting center backs out on Saturday night, Nelsen decided to go with Nick Hagglund and Bradley Orr in the center of defense. The two played well together and ensured never to allow the Major League Soccer 'Player of the Month' Federico Higuain get behind them. Hagglund played tough on the Argentine and never gave him too much space. He also demonstrated great positional awareness and seemed to be in the right place at the right times.
Nelsen expressed his pleasure with Hagglund's performance in the post game press conference.
"He was fantastic, I thought both center backs were incredible".
Toronto FC will have their captain Steven Caldwell back next week, which will likely mean that Hagglund gets relegated to the bench, considering Doneil Henry will also likely be ready to go. However, the first round draft pick out of Xavier proved to his coach that he can compete at a high level. Crew Stadium is not an easy place to make a debut, and Hagglund helped shut out a previously undefeated side.
Saturday's win in Columbus took a massive effort from many of Toronto FC's role players, and they demonstrated to the league that the squad has more depth than many would have thought. Even without their star striker, team captain, and two other starters, the Reds were able to hand Columbus their first defeat of the season. It was a great team effort, and Hagglund will be happy to make his debut alongside such a strong squad of players.