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TFC x CONMEBOL: Toronto FC and their history of South American players

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With Yeferson Soteldo set to become TFC’s 17th player from a CONMEBOL nation, how did his fellow South Americans fare during their time in Toronto?

Leon v Toronto - Concacaf Champions League 2021 Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images

TORONTO, Canada—Venezuelan startlet Yeferson Soteldo has now officially joined Toronto FC from Santos for a reported fee of $6 million USD. After a patient few months, the club has finally filled their third designated player spot which was vacated by Pablo Piatti at the end of the 2020 season.

The winger will become Toronto’s second Venezuelan and 17th South American in history to don the red shirt, and while some fans may have never heard of him before, many will hope that Soteldo is here to rewrite the narrative of South American players at Toronto FC.

Over the years, Toronto has been represented by a number of players from member nations of the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL). Some were impactful, but most were unable to establish themselves as long-term impact players at the club. The TFC faithful will now expect Soteldo to feasibly buck that trend and form a devastating attacking trio alongside Alejandro Pozuelo and whoever Toronto’s main man up top will be (Ayo Akinola, Jozy Altidore, Patrick Mullins).

It is common soccer knowledge that South America exports more players than any other continent, yet in TFC’s history, the club has failed to land a marquee South American signing that has engrained themselves in Toronto FC folklore.

Soteldo will join his compatriot Erickson Gallardo and Brazilian defender Auro Jr. as the three South Americans in Toronto’s squad for the 2021 campaign. The trio will have their sights set on winning over the TFC faithful this season, but as is the case with any new DP signing, all eyes will be on the flair and creativity that Soteldo looks set to bring on the wing.

With the Venezuelan ready to inject a much needed sense of panache into his new side, here’s a look back at TFC’s history of CONMEBOL signings and how the respective players of each nation fared during their spells at the club.


Argentina

SOCCER: SEP 09 MLS - Toronto FC at Montreal Impact

Pablo Vitti (2009), Martin Šarić (2010), Matías Laba (2013), Maximiliano Urruti (2013), Mariano Miño (2018), Lucas Janson (2018), Pablo Piatti (2020)

Each of TFC’s seven Argentineans only lasted one year before taking their services elsewhere, which goes to show the lack of influence they had in Toronto.

Only 13 goals were scored in 106 combined appearances between the seven Argentines, with Lucas Janson contributing most to the goalscoring tally with five. Given that all seven players are either midfielders or forwards, their figures at TFC were quite underwhelming.

Pablo Piatti was the latest Argentine to play for Toronto and as a designated player, expectations were evidently high for him to serve as an influential figure in the squad. Unfortunately, four goals in 19 appearances was all he could give during his short time with the club.

Soteldo will take Piatti’s spot as TFC’s third designated player, and the Venezuelan, who is nine years younger than the Argentine, is duly ready to pay dividends for Toronto FC in the long run, something that his predecessor was seemingly not up for.


Brazil

SOCCER: APR 12 MLS - Rapids at Toronto FC

Paulo Nagamura (2007), Maicon Santos (2010-2011), Júlio César (2014), Jackson Gonçalves (2014-2015), Gilberto (2014-2015), Auro Jr. (2018-Present)

Toronto’s Brazilian legacy started woefully with Paulo Nagamura making just four appearances in TFC’s inaugural MLS campaign. Since then, Toronto’s most impactful Brazilian signings have arguably been Maicon Santos and Auro Jr.

Santos scored 14 goals in 40 games and is a former club captain, while Auro Jr., who has been at the club since 2018, is closing in on 100 games for TFC, a feat he will likely hit this year.

Júlio César (signed on on loan), Jackson Gonçalves and Gilberto all joined for the 2014 season, but each of their short stints in Canada produced little to set the world alight.

Gilberto’s time in Toronto is undeniably one of the most forgetful of any designated player in the club’s history, which led to Sports Illustrated naming the forward as one of the worst DP signings in MLS history.

Soteldo and Gilberto’s transfer stories are in fact quite similar. Both of them were eyed by TFC as promising attacking additions to the squad from the Brazilian league, but let’s hope Soteldo’s spell in Toronto doesn’t end in the same way as Gilberto’s did.


Venezuela

Leon v Toronto - Concacaf Champions League 2021

Erickson Gallardo (2019-Present), Yeferson Soteldo (2021-Present)

The signing of Soteldo means that Venezuela, Canada and the USA are the three countries to have more than one of their own in TFC’s squad this season.

Gallardo’s time in Toronto has been plagued by injuries, which has ultimately limited him to 16 first team appearances in just under two years. He undoubtedly has a point to prove this season, and that starts with bagging a well overdue first goal for the club after he recovers from a groin injury.

The pair both played for Venezuelan side Zamora in the early stages of their careers and were even teammates for a couple of seasons. While Soteldo will more than likely be implemented right into the starting lineup, Gallardo will need to work his way back up the pecking order if he is to star alongside his compatriot on the pitch.


Chile

12-05-05 - TORONTO, ONTARIO - TFCs Miguel Aceval, wipes his face with his hand, near the end of the

Miguel Aceval (2012)

TFC’s only Chilean was one of the worst signings in the club’s history, not only because of failure to adapt to life at TFC, but also due to the manner in which he left the club. He was arrested and charged with public intoxication while in Houston and hence had his contract terminated.

On the pitch, Aceval looked out of shape and unfocused. His 10 games for Toronto serve as enough evidence with regards to how his level of play was not even a fit for MLS. Ironically enough, he returned to Huachipato following his stint with TFC, the club Soteldo was originally purchased from by Santos in 2019.


Ecuador

Philadelphia Union v Toronto FC

Joao Plata (2011-2013)

Plata was picked up by TFC on loan via the MLS SuperDraft in 2011. A successful campaign led to his permanent signing the following year.

The Ecuadorian scored a total of 10 goals in 52 games for Toronto, including the crucial equalizer from the penalty spot in the 2011 Canadian Championship final second leg win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

His second season was far less impressive than his first, and the forward is most definitely not a name you think of when talking about TFC favourites.


All in all, TFC’s current history of South American players is not one to be fond of, but with Chris Armas’ new attacking-minded system, Soteldo should slot right in and help bolster TFC on both the scoring and assisting fronts. Moreover, the club and its fans have every right to be excited by the arrival of the electric Venezuelan winger.