TORONTO, Ont.,—After struggling to adapt early on in his Major League Soccer career, Toronto FC winger Erickson Gallardo has been eagerly looking forward to the opportunity that lies ahead for him and his family in 2020.
The 23-year-old Targeted Allocation Money signing moved to Toronto midway through the year from Venezuelan Primera División club Zamora F.C.
And even though he spent his offseason in Venezuela, heading back home to see his family approximately 15 days after the MLS Cup Final, it hasn’t taken him a long time to fall in love with what Canada has to offer.
“The city is very nice—except the cold,” Gallardo said with a laugh, through the help of a team translator. “But the city is a very nice city. The people are very kind, respectful; everyone is very nice here. If it were up to me, I would just stay here for forever. But I know I just came here to play football.”
Since touching down in July, Gallardo says that he has visited numerous places around Toronto as he enjoys embracing its diversity by walking around. He travels on the subway often and has visited numerous attractions around southern Ontario, including Nathan Phillips Square for ice skating, Canada’s Wonderland—and his most recent visit, to Niagara Falls, included an extra-special addition who tagged along.
During the playoff run last season, Gallardo and his wife were blessed with a baby girl, as Lia Nicolle was born on Oct. 14, 2019—a Canadian, the Venezuelan confirmed with a humble smirk on his face, nodding his head.
And while he refuses to acknowledge that his newborn daughter perhaps factored into his lack of minutes down the stretch last year, Gallardo’s isn’t hesitant to express the impact that she’ll have on him this year.
“[Having Lia] is a great motivation for me because now that I have her I have to think about a lot of things, just to make sure that she has a good future,” said Gallardo. “As a dad, I know that I have to be focused so I can face any obstacles or anything that comes my way. I just know that she is a great motivation to keep going because I want her to keep going.”
Gallardo’s struggles to get into coach Greg Vanney’s side have been well documented across #TFCLive. In eight Toronto FC appearances last season, he started just six matches while lasting the full 90 minutes only one time, in a Canadian Championship 3-0 win over the Ottawa Fury.
“Last year was completely different because when I arrived to the team, I couldn’t do preseason,” explained Gallardo. “A lot of players had a different level to what I had, especially because I was coming from holidays in Venezuela, so I struggled a lot to adapt to the team mainly because they were in the middle of the season with a different level.”
The right winger joined TFC in the midst of their playoff push. Not only was he asked to adapt to a different style of North American football, but since the MLS season doesn’t run parallel with the rest of the world, Gallardo was at the peak of his offseason (in the summer) when he made the move to BMO Field.
“Mid-season can sometimes be challenging to step into a new team, particularly for young, international players,” warned Toronto FC general manager Ali Curtis, when the club signed Gallardo in July.
This year, however, with a full preseason under his belt, the Toronto FC TAM-signing believes that 2020 has something special in store.
“This year is going to be different because I have been able to be with the team during preseason and I think that I can show more of myself on the field and the way that I play,” said the 23-year-old. “I’m hoping to lift trophies with the team, score goals and have more assists to help my teammates.”
⚽️ GOAL Erickson Gallardo— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) February 8, 2020
The Venezuelan latches onto a ball in behind the defence and slots away for the 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/aIDU6zPzeY
His twitter handle, @metoerogallardo, is what they used to call him back home in Venezuela. From Spanish to English, that translates into “Meteor Gallardo”, so you can probably guess where he got his nickname.
“His first 10-20 steps are just lightning,” said Toronto FC head coach Vanney. “Whether that’s closing you down defensively or whether that’s getting behind you without the ball, looking for passes—he can do all of those things.”
“He’s kind of a Rossi type of player, who kind of has that dynamic, shot-out-of-a-canon type of speed that can be really useful in this league, so we’re excited for that.”
If the excited tone in Vanney’s voice is any indication of what Gallardo will bring to Toronto FC this season, the BMO Field faithful should be, at the very least, enthusiastic of what a full season could have in store for their speedy no. 9.