On Saturday, December 9, Raheem Edwards and Toronto FC won the MLS Cup. On Monday, he celebrated the win at the victory parade in downtown Toronto. Before dinner on Tuesday, he was a member of the Montreal Impact.
Needless to say, things can move quickly in MLS.
“I had actually forgotten it was the expansion draft,” admitted Edwards. “I knew it was possible for me to be selected, but I hadn’t given it much thought. It’s only when people started messaging me that I found out. My first reaction was that Los Angeles was an expensive city to live in.”
Raheem barely had time to process the news when Los Angeles FC sent him and another expansion draft pick, Jukka Raitala, from the Columbus Crew SC, to the Montreal Impact in exchange for defender Laurent Ciman in a blockbuster trade that had the MLS world reeling.
“When I found out I was going to Montreal the same day, I thought it was really quick and that they must really want me there,” explained Edwards. “It was a bit of a shock at first because it was so fast, but I had a chance to get my head straight. I’m excited; it’s a good opportunity to play with a team that wants me and that is only getting better.”
From the 6ix to le 514
Born and raised in Toronto and evolving in the Toronto FC Academy, Raheem’s knowledge of Montreal is limited to the few times he’s visited the city with the Canadian Men’s National Team or with Toronto FC.
“I’ve always thought Montreal was a great city,” said Edwards. “As for the team, after a disappointing year, it’s exciting to see the new direction they’re going towards. I can’t wait to be a part of it, put my head down and get to work.”
He won’t have to wait very long to face his old team, as the Impact will host Toronto FC at Olympic Stadium for its home opener on March 17.
“It’s going be interesting, me being from there and the year we had,” explained Raheem. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel. I’m just going to be so excited to play.”
A highlight year
Edwards is coming off the biggest year of his career thus far, playing 21 games with the Reds, including 10 starts, earning a goal and six assists in the process. However, what’s most impressive about Raheem’s year is that he managed to make an impact on a team that isn’t lacking difference makers at the moment, and doing it at just 22 years old.
“Playing in the USL for a season (in 2016) was huge, it let me showcase my talents and attract more attention than usual,” said Edwards. “I really improved my form and when Toronto gave me a shot, I proved that I can compete with the established players in MLS.”
Raheem was challenged by TFC head coach Greg Vanney to play left wingback in his first season with the team, and excelled in the position, providing a serious attacking threat down the left flank. His favorite position, he says, is usually on the left side of the three attacking players in a 4-2-3-1 formation, although his ability to adapt to any position is what makes the Canadian international so unique.
“I’m a very attack-minded player,” explained Edwards. “I like to take players on down the flank and then cross the ball or cut into the box and make a precise pass, depending on what formation we’re playing and where I am on the field.”