It didn’t take long for MLS to take notice of the threat he possessed when the Venezuelan designated player made his debut at the start of May.
Injury and international duty at the Copa America stalled his introduction to the league, but since returning to the starting lineup Soteldo has been phenomenal.
The 24-year-old attacker has two goals and three assists in his last four matches, coinciding with TFC’s unbeaten run under Javier Perez.
The opponent’s game-plan has been clear: foul early, foul often – Soteldo has suffered 15 fouls in the last five matches, but where some may shy away from that, he revels.
“It’s a very competitive league, very physical,” said Soteldo through a translator during a Zoom conference call on Wednesday. “I'm starting to enjoy it a little bit more. I'm getting adapted to the rhythm of the league.”
Like the rest of his teammates, Soteldo returned to Toronto at the start of July after long months away and finally got to properly glimpse his new home.
“Toronto is a beautiful city, very calm, so I have enjoyed my little time here,” he said. “I hope that I can get some more time to go around and enjoy it a little bit more, but right now I'm just focusing on the game which is why I came here.”
His family is yet to arrive, but that too will come with time.
“For now I'm by myself, they haven't been able to come to Canada, but I'm waiting, anxious, for the day that they can come,” he replied. “Once they're here I'm going to be happier. I'm just waiting for that moment to come.”
It is not uncommon for players new to the league to take some time to adjust – MLS is a singular beast – but Soteldo, after a difficult stretch when the team was struggling, has found his footing quickly.
“He's so good at what he does, he garners so much attention,” said Justin Morrow after the 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls, where they shared the left-flank. “He's so comfortable on the ball, he wants the ball to his feet, he's really comfortable with multiple defenders around him.”
“For a player like me it makes it really easy to get around him on the overlap because he takes up so much space and then he opens up space for guys in the middle,” he continued. “There’s much more to come for Yeferson, but he’s doing great.”
‘Magic’ was how Dom Dwyer described him.
“We haven't got too much time together, but it was apparent right away: you can see his talent,” highlighted the veteran striker. “And it's only going to go up from there. The more chemistry he builds with his teammates, the more we can find him in dangerous positions. He's going to be very important for us. He's definitely one to watch.”
‘Special’ is a word used a lot when talking about Soteldo.
“He’s a special player,” said Altidore. “Anybody that has a football brain can see what this kid brings. He always wants the ball. He never hides. He wants to get on the ball, he wants to be a match-winner. The signs are there for a kid that can do really special things. You just have to continue to work with him, push him in the right ways, and keep taking steps as a team.”
Soteldo slipping Morrow down the left to hang a ball up into the area for Altidore to head home in front of the lively fans at the South End at BMO Field after so long just felt right.
Altidore credited in part that atmosphere for bringing life to the performances: “[For] players like that, it makes a difference when you're playing these empty arenas. Players like that feed off that energy, they feed off the crowd, they feed off the moment, the occasion. And when we have the stadium that we have, the fans that we have it gives everybody a lift.”
And then there was Alex Bono’s quip about dribbling through the traffic on the 401 after the 2-1 win at Chicago Fire this past weekend, where Soteldo factored in both goals, scoring one and setting up the other.
With both Alejandro Pozuelo and Soteldo on the field, TFC look a different team.
“He has something special,” said the 2020 MLS MVP following the draw with Orlando. “We have a good relationship – he’s Latin, he speaks Spanish. We are, all-day, together training out on the pitch, inside. And you see it in the game. We have a good connection in just our second game together.”
And this is just the start of that partnership.
“We speak a lot on and off the field,” said Soteldo. “The same relationship that you see on the field, is the same off the field, so it's a really good relationship.”
“We have been talking so much about once we get to the point that we're well physically, it's going to be even better on the field,” he continued. “We're working together, pushing ourselves, and helping each other to be at the top level.”
As animated as he can appear on the field, in interviews he cuts a different figure. The occasional smile, but serious, understated, aside from the shock of blond hair.
But once the whistle blows.
“It's something that I always get asked in interviews,” began Soteldo, asked about his fiery disposition on the pitch. “I think because of my height I had to struggle a lot. I wasn’t the tallest, but I knew that with my personality and my quality I can show what I'm capable of. That's why I always like to compete and try to be the type of person that doesn't like to lose.”
“I've been showing that on the field and in the training sessions,” he continued. “The only issue with that mentality is that when you lose, it's really hard to react to it, so it's something that I struggle with.”
The perfect encapsulation came against Chicago. Soteldo ended the first half in an argument with the referee and began the second with an apology and a hug.
“He wants to play every minute. He wants to win,” summed up Perez of that attitude. “Nobody in the team likes not winning. Nobody on the team goes on the field thinking that we are going to tie or we are going to take a point. Regardless of whether we are playing home or away, we are always thinking that we're going to take the three points. And that’s his mindset.”