Darren Toby was named Utica City FC Defender of the year for the 2018-19 season, and for many who know him, or have even just watched him play, this came as no surprise. This is largely due to Toby being one of the coolest and most consistent players in the entire MASL, and his performances for UCFC have demonstrated just that throughout the entire regular season. But how did Toby develop into one of the best defenders in the league?

When we look at Toby’s journey throughout his career, there can be no doubt that his experience is a key contributing to the high standards he displays week in week out. When it comes to defending in 1 v 1 situations, Toby’s calmness and ability to stay focused on the task at hand is second to none at this level. “It’s important to stay mentally focused so that everyone is on the same page and we should remain calm so that we’re not too frantic and making mistakes,” Toby stated. His overall awareness, and ability to detect danger, allows him to appear as quick as some of the fastest, and youngest, players in the league, even though the veteran defender just turned 37 years of age.

But the key to what truly separates the best in any sport is the ability to perform when it truly matters. When the pressure is on, many players fail. Many players will go hiding, or they are just unable to produce the qualities we see them display when there is less on the line. This is where players like Darren Toby do not change.

Toby demonstrates an outstanding psychological balance, regardless of the situation he is faced with on the field. This was likely acquired from his upbringing and early days of first playing the sport in his native Trinidad and Tobago. But one thing we can be certain of is that he understands how important the psychological side of the game is when it comes to success. When speaking last summer prior to Utica’s first exploits as an MASL franchise, he emphasized back then how the key to seriously competing for an MASL championship was mental discipline. “I believe to be successful in playoffs begins mentally,” said Toby. “We have to be able to match our opponents intensity, raise ours, limit our mistakes and capitalize on theirs!

With the playoffs quickly approaching, there will be thousands of UCFC fans hoping that their favorite players, who have all entertained and produced at a high level time and time again inside the Adirondack Bank Center this season, will have the courage, and psychological strength, to attain the same performance levels under the postseason pressure. If any UCFC players begin to feel any anxiety, they can always lean on their calm, collective teammate, Darren Toby.