Toronto decision looming on Welsh striker Robert Earnshaw

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The spring loan deals arranged by Toronto FC’s new management – mostly stop-gap measures while a bigger plan could be implemented – are coming to a close. Most of them will expire without much fanfare, and the fans around Exhibition Place have little reason to miss most of the travelers.

But the decision regarding one loanee will be a real puzzler; Toronto FC has a big choice ahead on Welsh striker Robert Earnshaw.

Earnshaw struck early and often to begin his MLS days, almost single-handedly raising March hopes around BMO Field and even topping the league’s scoring list in some of the initial weeks.

Since then the 32-year-old striker’s production has fallen sharply.He still seems to be a quality man to have around at a relatively low salary for a first-choice striker ($155,000 guaranteed). It’s complicated math, really, because there are so many dynamic parts in motion here.

  • He’s 32, so how does that fit as Kevin Payne and manager Ryan Nelsen attempt to build?
  • Would his April and May have looked different if the team playing behind him was better? Truly, the man isn’t getting much help.
  • How much will he gain by having a high-quality striker alongside once Danny Koevermans is fully healthy? If Koevermans bounces back, that suddenly looks like a strike pairing worth watching.
  • On the other hand, as the 2013 season already seems lost in terms of achievement and hardware (just one win in 13 matches), how much sense does it make to give him minutes? Wouldn’t a young striker better serve the club’s long-term interests?

This piece from Walking the Red blog is a great examination of both sides. And it lays out one further element among the myriad moving parts here: Which is the real Earnshaw? Was it the one seen earlier or the slightly more selfish version on display lately? Perhaps any perceived selfishness is out of necessity; as we mentioned, the team behind him is pretty lousy.

Here’s how the story at Walking the Red describes Earnshaw’s ways of late:

Earnshaw seems frustrated at being used effectively as a target man, having to chase long balls and battle Centre Backs for headers he’s very rarely going to win. When he does get the ball, he seems very reluctant to pass, as if desperate to create a chance for a shot on goal, often dribbling into defenders or taking ambitious shots from far out when a pass to keep the move going and wait for a better opportunity would be the best option.

“It’s now 2 straight games that Earnshaw has been subbed off between the 60th and 70th minutes, in games where TFC need a goal. This is form that makes it easy to see just how he’d ended up at Maccabi Tel Aviv before finding his way to Toronto.”