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Red Bulletin: Delgado has made himself more than just a depth player

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The midfielder is Toronto FC’s 12th man and can take another step forward in 2017.

MLS: Toronto FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Bulletin is Waking the Red’s morning update on Toronto FC, wider MLS talking points and more. Related and unrelated chat below the line is welcome.

In some ways, the presence of players such as the newly re-signed Marky Delgado on Toronto FC’s roster is the greatest proof available that a once-shambolic MLS franchise is finally being run in a competent manner. Delgado’s individual contribution may not be as significant as Sebastian Giovinco’s or Jozy Altidore’s, but no matter how many goals those two score the team cannot be successful without depth beyond them.

Little by little, the gaps in Toronto’s depth chart are being filled by players the team can rely upon for more than a season or two. Delgado fits into that category and while he has had his ups and downs this season, at 21 he boasts an impressive amount of MLS experience and continues to improve year-by-year.

Delgado is at 28 games and 1,995 minutes played in 2016 compared to 20 games and 1,699 minutes last year. The next step for him, like many of Toronto’s young midfielders, will be to make more of a tangible impact in the attacking third of the pitch but he has taken big strides forward over the past 12 months on the defensive side of the ball, making significantly more passes and tackles per game this season than last.

“He’s proven to be a valuable asset in this league,” Greg Vanney said. “He’s a very good midfielder in terms of his ability to cover ground, to run. He’s comfortable with the ball, he can play on the move, he doesn’t have to be playing just standing and passing.

“At 21 years old, he’s got close to 100 games under his belt already and he’s scored some goals, so he’s shown an ability to play both at times for us as a holding midfielder and at times for us as an eight, and we used him once last year as an attacking midfielder just running through the lines. He’s very versatile and he’s got an incredible engine.”

MLS: Toronto FC at New York Red Bulls Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ironically, Delgado’s new contract comes just as he may be dropping out of Greg Vanney’s best starting lineup. Armando Cooper has been impressive since joining on loan and will likely play with Will Johnson, if fit, in between Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio in the midfield diamond during the playoffs.

The speed and energy that Vanney alluded to will make Delgado a useful option from the bench, however, particularly on the counter-attack if Toronto have a lead. Having played in central midfield, out wide and at wing-back, he also offers useful versatility in the event of a change of formation.

His return in 2017 also provides some longer-term clarity. Things could be complicated if Bradley’s future comes into question and a left-footed addition may be necessary if Benoit Cheyrou leaves, but otherwise Vanney will have the luxury of working with a fairly settled midfield group next season. Tim Bezbatchenko, meanwhile, can get to work on repeating the kind of job that has been done to bolster central midfield at centre-back.

Delgado was acquired as a freebie in the 2014 dispersal draft after Chivas USA left the league. It was a surprise that he dropped to Toronto, who selected him with the 14th pick, at the time and he has become one of the prime examples of the Reds’ much-improved identification and development of promising young players.

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