TFC remains confident in Gallardo

Toronto FC midfielder Erickson Gallardo heads the ball during a game earlier this season. (USA TODAY SPORTS)

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SEATTLE — Toronto forward Erickson Gallardo did not play a single minute in the MLS Cup playoffs this season and TFC GM Ali Curtis said not to read anything into that.

Curtis said Gallardo, who joined the Reds this summer with some fanfare from Venezuelan Primera Division club Zamora FC, was not in coach Greg Vanney’s dog house nor has his stock, in the eyes of the front office or coaching staff, dropped since he joined the team. Curtis said Vanney just didn’t think the time was right to play the 23-year-old, who in June made his debut with the Venezuelan national team.

“In these games, particularly in the playoffs, everything is analyzed — the opponent, the venue, the game, what our situation looks like. And the decisions that Greg (made) in regards to roster choices is strictly about the group and not about any individual.

“We think his upside is tremendous,” Curtis told the Toronto Sun. “The things we saw on video and with scouting, the research and everything, we believe in him even more now that he’s been in our building. With a lot of young international players, it takes time to transition. He and his wife just had a baby maybe a couple of weeks ago. On top of that, he came in when the team was rolling.

“When you come in when the team is rolling and Nick DeLeon is playing this strong, and (Nicolas) Benezet is playing this well and Tsubasa Endoh is coming out of his shell, and that was on the tail in of Jacob Shaffelburg and the impact he had. So he’s coming into a team that already is just very, very strong. There were times when (Jonathan) Osorio was not even in the lineup. We have a lot of depth in our team which gives you latitude to bring guys along and insert them in the right moment without having to force the moment.

“We’re happy and excited that Gallardo is with us and we think as soon as he becomes more comfortable and acclimated to Toronto, he’s going to give us a lot,” the GM added. “Gallardo is still a young man and he’ll get even better as he gets more comfortable, learns the language. Which is difficult. He came in here not knowing a word of English. We have big expectations for next year.”

Gallardo played five regular-season games, recorded an assist and showed some very good quality and pace at times.

THE SEARCH FOR A SCORER

TFC president Bill Manning said the organization will be looking for another goal scorer in the winter transfer window to complement Jozy Altidore. The Reds were hard-pressed to score when Altidore was injured or out on international duty with the U.S. team. He missed the first three games in the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs, forcing Vanney to use midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo as a false nine, pushing him farther up.

Don’t expect any announcements regarding Michael Bradley’s future any time soon. With the Reds losing to the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, Bradley reportedly missed out on having his contract extended one more year automatically. There are reports that the TFC captain had a clause in his contract that would have seen him, in 2020, get paid roughly the same $6.5 million he earned this season.

The word is that the club would like Bradley back next season, but not as a Designated Player. If that’s the case (or if Bradley does not return), TFC would use their third DP slot on a second striker.

BENEZET WANTS TO RETURN

TFC winger/midfielder Nicolas Benezet, who had two shots on target (one that forced Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei to make a great diving save) and also created a scoring chance in Sunday’s game, joined TFC this July from French side Guingamp following that club’s relegation from Ligue 1. The crafty Frenchman joined the Reds on a loan for the remainder of the season with TFC holding an option to make the transfer permanent. Curtis told the Sun that he wants the player back and Benezet said following Sunday’s game that he wants to return. Benezet, 28, scored TFC’s first goal in the 2-1 Eastern Conference final win over Atlanta United on Oct. 30.

THE BEER AND SHOT GUYS

Curtis gave a shout-out to a couple of the blue-collar guys on the club who will be coming back next year, midfielder DeLeon and full back Richie Laryea.

DeLeon, 29, scored six goals and added four assists in 32 games for Toronto this year and scored a sensational goal in the 2-1 playoff win over Atlanta.

“We felt that Nick was going to be a helpful addition, but he’s been more than what we anticipated,” Curtis said. “Not just on the field, but off the field with his personality. He’s a true gentleman and just a great character.”

The Reds signed the 24-year-old Laryea in March after Orlando City declined his contract option. The move revitalized his career, as TFC turned the midfielder into a right back. As a result of that position change, Laryea has also solidified a spot on the Canadian national team.

“We didn’t anticipate that he was going to have the impact that he had in this first year,” said Curtis. “We didn’t know he could have that type of impact in year one.”

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