Thank god Ansu Toure's finally gone.
Oh, I don't mean that as a slight. Toure was a limited but effective player in his career in Vancouver. He was a hero in one famous game last year, scoring a brace as Vancouver beat Toronto FC 2-1 at Swangard Stadium in the 2009 Voyageurs Cup. That was most of Ansu's scoring in Vancouver, but he was a reasonably effective playmaker and a solid presence down the wing who, defying stereotype for small speedy wingers, didn't make a lot of mistakes and helped Vancouver score more goals than he cost them.
He was also a positively erratic, though powerful enough, shooter, made the wrong decision on his distribution far too many times, and lacked the defensive awareness to make up for his offensive limitations. He was a perfectly capable, even a good, second-division journeyman, but he was not a Major League Soccer-calibre player. Deep down, everyone in Vancouver knew that Toure would be leaving sooner rather than later; the only question was would it be sooner or later?
Then, back on August 11, Ansu shook the hands of the training staff and walked off into the metaphorical sunset. His release wasn't announced, for whatever reason, but he left the Whitecaps and never came back. For over two weeks, we waited for final word on Toure's fate. Now that it's come, it's nice to have a sense of closure. But we shouldn't make the mistake of forgetting what young Ansu brought to the Whitecaps in the two seasons he spent with the club. He was never a star, but he was ours and he more than repaid the praise of his supporters.
Any discussion about Ansu Toure has to begin with his greatest moment; the one he never quite lived down. The Whitecaps hadn't exactly embarrassed themselves in the 2008 Voyageurs Cup but it had been a disappointment all the same, coming in third despite edging favourites Toronto FC 1-0 at BMO Field. They lost to the eventual champions Montreal Impact in their two legs by a combined score of 4-0 and only managed a 2-2 draw with Toronto back in Vancouver. In 2009 Vancouver opened the tournament by finally losing in Toronto (victimized by, of all people, Kevin Harmse), but got themselves back into contention by whipping Montreal in two straight matches before welcoming Toronto back into Swangard.
A win would put Vancouver in a great position and a win is what they got. With Swangard rocking in a way seldom seen before or since, Vancouver came out gangbusters, but not as gangbusters as Ansu. In the thirty-first minute Toure opened the scoring, and in the eighty-first Toure finished it. 2-0 Vancouver final, and while we all know how that underdog story ended for one night it was an immortal game by the most workmanlike of players.
There weren't many more goals for Toure, unfortunately. He came up as a star in the American NPSL with the St. Paul Twin Stars, a team famous for its Liberian content, and in his previous USL First Division stops in Minnesota, Atlanta, and Miami Toure had shown nice touch around the goal. With the Whitecaps his effectiveness was far more limited. Never a bad player, he was regardless never a very good one. There were very few bad results you could blame Toure for, giving him the advantage of erratic but talented midfielders like Justin Moose. But at the same time, he never took that one, last step he seemed constantly capable of.
The problem with Toure was that he didn't have any skills that made him too valuable to lose. Martin Nash could play until he's a hundred at one level or another because his distribution is so good and he's so excellent off of dead balls. Meanwhile, the Whitecaps added guys like Kyle Porter and Alex Elliot who could play Toure's position. Philippe Davies emerged as a superior second-division player. Takashi Hirano, though predominantly a fullback, stubbornly refused to grow old. There was no longer playing time for Toure, and that was the end of that chapter.
I, and most Whitecaps fans, wish Toure the best. It's certain he'll resurface somewhere in the professional ranks. But there's no denying he had reached his limit and it was time for Vancouver to move on.