Canadian midfielder Jay Chapman has told Inside Soccer Magazine that he rejected the likes of Swansea City, Sunderland and Aston Villa in favour of signing for Toronto FC due to his desire to start out his career in front of his home fans.
Chapman, 21, spent the past three seasons starring at the college level with the Michigan State Spartans, where he recorded 12 goals and 15 assists in 62 appearances, while also turning out for the Under-20 national team.
One of the brightest collegiate prospects in the States, the Toronto-native had been on the MLS club’s books prior to heading off to East Lansing in 2012, allowing them to sign him to a Homegrown deal last month, despite initial fears that the league could force him to enter the 2015 SuperDraft instead.
The move was quite a coup for TFC, considering Chapman was entertaining offers from the Premier League trio at the time, as the Daily Mail also reported, but the 2014 First-Team All-American remains adamant that he has made the best decision for his career.
“I met with [general manager] Tim Bezbatchenko and [head coach] Greg Vanney, had a really good phone call with him, and he explained to me the philosophy and the way that the team’s going and that’s very big for me,” Chapman said.
“I want to be on a successful team and I think Greg’s going to bring that. There were other options but once I had a good talk with the staff, coming back to Toronto and playing in front of the home fans is where I wanted to be.”
Boss Vanney has been more than impressed with his star prospect's impact during preseason, adding: "Jay’s done well. He’s clearly a good soccer player. There are things he’s going to learn that are more sort of pro, high level sorts of stuff but all the attributes are there.
"What we want to do is not put too much pressure on anybody to have to do anything amazing this year and everybody to play within themselves," he continued. "Jay will have to learn the system and will have to figure out his role within the team, whether it’s something where he can play out wide or he can play underneath the striker."
Chapman joins a TFC squad which has gone through a dramatic winter overhaul, with unsettled striker Jermain Defoe shipped off to Sunderland in a swap deal for US international Jozy Altidore, before the club managed to land the high-profile signature of Juventus playmaker Sebastian Giovinco to slot into the line-up alongside star skipper Michael Bradley.
The Canadian outfit now look like good bets to not just make their first postseason appearance since entering the league in 2007, but to also challenge for an MLS Cup title, and the promising rookie is relishing the chance to learn from his big-name teammates moving forward.
"I think it’s going to be a little intimidating at first, playing with these big-name guys," he added. "But training day in and day out and learning how they made their success and their way of playing, what young guy doesn’t want to surround himself with those types of players?”