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Gilberto's Return to BMO Field Sure to Spark Debate

Should Toronto FC have kept the 26-year-old designated player? The question is sure to be asked this weekend when he returns to BMO Field for the first time in an opponent's uniform.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, Gilberto was a whistle away from a goal that, at the time, could have saved Toronto FC's playoff hopes. Dwayne De Rosario had just equalized for Toronto FC against the Chicago Fire, and Gilberto looked to have given Toronto the lead, but his sliding finish was called back for a foul.

Toronto would miss the playoffs by eight points, but who knows what an extra two points could have done at a time when the club was still truly in the thick of the playoff race.

In the offseason that followed Toronto FC would once again rebrand, and Gilberto was deemed surplus to the club's needs. He was initially sent on loan to Brazilian side Vasco Da Gama, but after a falling out he returned to Major League Soccer where roster rules forced Toronto to place him on waivers ultimately leading to a move to the Fire.

That means a year after Gilberto's controversial goal that wasn't, he will be returning to BMO Field wearing opposition colours. A win this time last year would have kept Toronto FC's playoff hopes alive, this time it would all but see them realized. This time the Brazilian will be on the Chicago Fire team standing in their way.

This weekend will also bring up a lot of questions about what Gilberto could have been if he stayed with Toronto FC. There is no doubt that the 26-year-old Brazilian made some fans in his short time in Toronto, gaining respect for his relentless and passionate play.

Mainly, the question will be asked as to whether or not Gilberto would have been a better designated player for Toronto than Jozy Altidore. This question will be especially prevalent should Gilberto have a good game and Altidore a poor one, such is the micro view under which sports is often analyzed.

Gilberto hasn't had much time to prove himself as a head-to-head debate goes. He has only played six games for Chicago, scoring one goal and adding a pair of assists.

His replacement in Toronto, Altidore, has thrived at times this season, while at other times he has been invisible. He already has 10 goals so far this year in 22 matches, only 18 of which have been starts.

Putting aside the dollar figures for a second, which in this argument are mostly irrelevant considering the fact that both took up a designated player spot, Altidore has had the bigger impact. He has looked more like a classic number 9, but hasn't showed up play as consistently as Gilberto did during his time in Toronto.

The debate between the two is difficult because there are just too many factors. How will Gilberto have done with Giovinco? Would Gilberto have realized his potential in Toronto? How would Altidore have done if he was healthy for an entire season like Gilberto? Would Altidore's production be the same on last year's team? A lot of questions never to be answered.

The only tangible is that up to this point Altidore has had a successful first season with Toronto FC. He has been a consistent goalscoring threat, and has been a game breaker for Toronto FC more than a few times this season. Whether or not Gilberto would have matched or improved on those numbers can only be seen as speculation.