March 31, 2007 Toronto FC story on Ronnie O'Brien (from Toronto Star)

Ex-Juve prospect glad to be with FC

Mar 31, 2007 04:30 AM

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.–Two years into his contract with Italian superclub Juventus, Ronnie O'Brien had had enough.

In theory the job paid well and gave him the chance to play with some of the game's biggest names, but in reality the Irish midfielder spent more time on loan than on Juventus's roster, and never played a regular-season game. Before the 2002 season he told Juventus management he couldn't stick around if they planned to send him to yet another lower-division team.

They assured O'Brien they had big plans for him in the future, but asked if he could handle one more season on loan.

He couldn't.

So Juventus helped O'Brien the best way they could – they released him, and gave his career the boost it needed.

O'Brien caught on with Major League Soccer's Dallas club, where within two seasons he had become a first-team league all-star.

Last season O'Brien missed time early with injuries and fell out with management late, eventually asking for a trade.

His request was granted, and he now suits up for Toronto FC, which closes out its Carolina Cup tournament schedule tonight against the Charleston Battery.

He sees the move to Toronto as one more timely change in scenery.

"I'm delighted," O'Brien said. "It feels good. It's a new experience. Not every league in the world has expansion teams like they have in North America, and the city has welcomed us with open arms."

"He's quick and he has vision," said Toronto coach Mo Johnston. "A lot of players don't have that in their game."

Toronto midfielder Richard Mulrooney, who played with O'Brien in Dallas, remembers a smart player who's not afraid to improvise.

"He doesn't always go by the book, but he finds ways to get it done," Mulrooney said.

O'Brien missed the entire 2003 season with a broken leg, then was named an MLS all-star and all-league player the next two seasons.

So far this pre-season O'Brien has justified Johnston's faith in him.

He missed most of February with a knee injury, but assisted on both goals Wednesday night as Toronto defeated New York for its first pre-season win over an MLS team.

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