Not sure what is redder in this photo. The giant inflatable goal structure of Matt's hair. Either way he is a player who many TFC fans will always have a soft spot for. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Gunther Photography.
Matt Gold only spent a single season at Toronto FC, he barely managed to make it on the field with the first team, but somehow he managed to find a way to endear himself to many fans. A part of that might have had to do with the fact that he was very willing to interact with Toronto fans on his twitter account (@mattgoald) and the fact that he always came across as being totally down to earth.
Matt just recently returned from a mission trip where he spent time sharing his Christian faith and his love for soccer with kids down in Haiti. To me that trip just typifies the kind of person that Matt seems to be, always trying to make the world a better place for the people around him and having a positive outlook. That positive view of life was very evident when Matt announced that he was released from TFC after only one season as he made it clear to stress that it was just the end of one chapter in his life and it would not be getting him down.
I am sure that I am not the only one who will be keeping an interested eye on where Matt's career and life take him for next season but for me he will always be remembered as one of the reddest of the Reds!
Keep reading after the jump for our exclusive Q and A with Matt Gold!
WTR: You were in Toronto for the better part of the year while playing with the club. How did you enjoy living in the city? Did you end up finding a good neighborhood to live in?
Matt: The city was amazing. I've never lived in a big city in an urban environment so I fell in love with the friendliness of Canadians, the youthful ambition, and the active nature of everyone. I tried to explore as much of the city as possible with Gianluca and Demitrius but I lived in the Liberty Village area. My favorite spots were king/queen west/trinity bellwoods areas mainly because they were close as well as little Italy and Greek town!
WTR: Having been born in Texas was it a big adjustment for you making the move to the frozen north known as Canada? Some former TFC players seem to have had issues adjusting to life in Toronto which raises the question does Jacob Peterson really hate Canada that much?
Matt: I had no problem adjusting. I'm a big fan of the 4 seasons and Columbus, OH has similar climate minus the lake effects. (where I went to college)
There are some little things that just seem unnecessary to Americans mainly concerning prices as well as moving but I dont think a city like New York would be much different.
WTR: You made the choice to take the NCAA route as a player. Was there a major adjustment between playing at the college level and then trying to make the jump to play at the MLS?
Matt: I think people in general don't give the MLS enough credit because it's "inferior to European leagues." The pace of the game is a fairly significant jump but nothing that college players cant adjust to.
WTR: In hindsight would you say that going the college route was the right choice for yourself as a player and a person? With it so often being suggested that going pro earlier is the better choice is the NCAA route something that you would recommend to a talented teenager if they asked you?
Matt: From a soccer development standpoint, I am definitely envious of kids that come out of the academy programs getting a younger start and having so much time to develop. I was in no position to consider playing pro in my early college years. I also just had a great experience in college and think there are some major maturity/self-disciplinary benefits to going to school first-wouldn't trade in my college experience, best 4 years of my life to date.
WTR: You did not get a whole lot of playing time with TFC but when you did play you managed to win over a lot of fans. Is there one moment in the past season that stands out for you as the high point?
Matt: The fans were great. There's always some negativity here and there but 99% of the fans were so supportive and it was a pleasure interacting for the year.
On the field my debut in Seattle was a special game for me but I always enjoyed interacting with fans after games and especially at community events.
WTR: Having spent time around a lot of Toronto's younger players is there anyone that you see as having a particularly bright future?
Matt: All the academy players have super bright futures. We had our own locker room since the main locker room can't accommodate the 30 man roster so we got pretty close. I can't single anyone out..Keith, Oscar, Doneil, Ashton and Stinson all have proved they are capable of contributing, it just takes patience to wait for the opportunity to arise.
WTR: Why do you think it was that you managed to have such a good relationship with fans? Of all the players that have been released so far this offseason, yourself and Demitrius Omphroy received the biggest reaction from the fan base despite your limited involvement in the first team. Do you think that is just a reflection of who you are as a person or is it something more than that?
Matt: Well first off I really appreciate the fan response and support. I would say its mainly due to our Twitter diligence since its an easy way to communicate with fans and feel connected..but I'll give Demit and I a little credit too! Haha
WTR: Aron Winter brought a tactic to the team that is not really common in North America so how was it for you as a player trying to adjust to his new style? Did you find that you fit well into Winter's tactics or was it a struggle for you?
Matt: I would say it was pretty foreign to the entire team. Not too many guys, if any, have experienced something like Aron's tactics/coaching style. It is definitely pretty contrary to the typical American style but I think it will be a great system in time and I feel like a more complete player after trying to emulate Barcelona for the year! No easy task..however if the organization is patient with the management I think it will yield a bright future. Most of us agreed it would be an awesome system to grow up with as a youth player and develop. I've noticed the academy teams have seemed to adjusted much quicker.
WTR: Since the end of the season you made it public that you have been released from the club, the club has confirmed it more recently, but how did that news hit you when it first happened? It seemed to be quite unexpected to fans who expected you to be given more than one year at the club but was it a complete shock to you?
Matt: I felt pretty confident as the season was coming to a close from the reserve league games but when I started thinking about roster space and where I stood personally I knew it could go either way. I had a positive closing meeting with the coaches basically explaining how they would like to develop me in their system but with Frings, Jules, and Terry there isn't really space for that.
WTR: What does the future have in store for you? I have a feeling that TFC fans will be eager to continue to support you in your next adventure so it would be great to have an idea what sort of league you are hoping to end up in for next season?
Matt: That would be awesome and I would love to stay in touch with fans. I'm not sure at this point, a lot of teams are reserving commitments until after the draft. I'm only considering American leagues at the moment but nothing concrete yet!
WTR: You made no secret of the fact that you are a Christian and that you regularly attended Church while living in Toronto. How has being religious and a pro-athlete worked for you? Was there any issues in that regard for you while at the club?
Matt: My faith and relationship with God is the most important thing in my life, above soccer and everything else. I did find an awesome church on Queen called One Community Church.
I didn't have any issues with players although Christianity stimulated some great conversations over meals. I was very involved with a pro and college sports ministry at Ohio State called Athletes in Action and I tried to incorporate it with TFC. There was significant support from players, especially among the Americans and Academy players, however the head coaches weren't very receptive given they didn't really understand the motive or benefit to players.
WTR: Which TFC players did you end up getting the closest with? Were you ever invited to take part in this hipster Tuesday event that seems to be so popular with Eric Avila?
Matt: I was closest with Gianluca and Demitrius. Demit and I were the originators of hipster Tuesday before Avi got traded but he definitely took it and ran with it! Haha
WTR: Duncan would really like to know if you recall the moment after Maicon Santos scored against Houston and he started dancing with Joao Plata. You looked like you wanted to join in on the celebration but ended up backing away. Did they not let you join in on the dance or was it more that you lack their latin flair?
Matt: Of course I remember that. I was just coming over to celebrate the goal but Maicon and Plata were pretty close friends so I didn't want to spoil their little latino moment together. And I haven't salsa danced since middle school so I wasn't about experiment in front of the whole stadium haha.
WTR: Was there any reason you ended up wearing the number 26 or was it just what you ended up being assigned?
Matt: I was 6 in college so I wasn't getting 6 from Jules and the academy boys had already claimed numbers, Oscar with 16, so I chose 26 to keep the 6 in it.
WTR: Having been at TFC for a year how would you rate the club in terms of the way that things are run?
Matt: This is a loaded question. The organization does a great job financially supporting the club and making sure everything is taken care of. The club wouldn't function without Corey, Jamie, and Bre.
As far as management, we all know Aron had a great career but not a lot of coaching experience. He has a lot of insight and is a very talented player but took some time to adjust to the north American style and habits in the league - things in and out of his control. I would say if his communication with players on a personal level improves, the other adjustments have been made for him and Bob to be in a great position to lead a successful TFC team next season.
WTR: How would you say that the fan support at BMO compares to that of the other places that you went on the road this year?
Matt: Easily top 3 in the league. Portland and Seattle are great as well. If only the various supporter groups could join forces..
WTR: Do you think that Toronto is now headed in the right direction and that the five year playoff drought might soon be over?
Matt: I definitely think so. In my opinion there was just a lack of patience in the previous years. It's tough to have a great first year and it almost seems like Toronto has had 4 or 5 "first year" seasons. I think the future is bright as the system develops. You could see evidence of this at the end of the season.
WTR: What are your biggest hobbies away from the pitch? I have seen a lot of photos that you shared, is that something that you are really in to?
Matt: Don't have a lot of hobbies. I enjoy being involved with the church, playing guitar and snowboarding in the off season. I do enjoy sharing photos but I do it more from a social motivation than a love for photography. Demitrius is really talented in the art realm so he rubbed off on me a bit!
WTR: Is Bob de Klerk as entertaining in real life as he seems in press conferences? He basically stole the show at the Supporters summits but is he that amusing all the time?
Matt: He is definitely a character and over-animated at times but I think it reflects his passion for the game. Super nice guy and a knowledgable coach.
WTR: How much of an influence has Torsten Frings had in the dressing room and what sort of a leader is he on the team?
Matt: He makes a big difference. He has the ability to put players at ease because he is the only one who is really in a position to stand up to the coaches.
WTR: What was the best practical joke played against you by your teammates? and against someone else?
Matt: Julian wrote on the board for us to wear our suits for a reserve game and we did haha.
WTR: Which of the more experienced players was the most influential and helpful to you personally over the season?
Matt: Dan Gargan, no question, hands down. Stand up guy. Lot to learn from that guy.
We really can not say thank you enough to Matt for taking the time to do this interview for us. Down the road we will do our best to keep fans of his updated on where his career does end up taking him. We certainly hope he finds a new club home and that one day we might see him back in Toronto.