Calichman Delgado Split

Reunited in Red: Marky Delgado and Dan Calichman find continued success in Toronto

TORONTO – When Marky Delgado reunited with the Toronto FC coaching staff in Los Angeles, alongside Justin Morrow and Alex Bono after the US Men's National Team January Camp wrapped up, it brought back memories of times long past.

For one of those players in particular, returning to the pitches of Southern California and reuniting with the TFC coaching staff – Greg Vanney, Robin Fraser, and Dan Calichman – harkens back to earlier days.

Delgado, a native of Glendora, California, grew up outside of LA, where his path to the professional game began.

The 22-year old midfielder credits Mount Sac College coach, Juan Sanchez with his early success.

“He was with my club growing up, had a lot of faith in me,” said Delgado in August. “Our club name would continually switch. [It got] to a point where [Sanchez said] he needed to, 'find some area to let you guys go because the club level is ending and we want you to keep improving'.”

“He put us with LAFC (Chelsea, not the MLS one), where Dan Calichman was,” continued Delgado. “That's where I met him, where it all started coming together.”

That was 2009. Delgado would depart for residency at the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the following year, then returned to reunite with Calichman as LAFC became Cosmos Academy West in 2011. But MLS was calling and the teenager made the decision to join the Chivas USA Academy later that year.

“Left Dan, sadly, played [Generation Adidas] Cup with them,” recalled Delgado. “They ended up buying Cosmos, so at the end of the day, I met up with Dan again. It was pretty crazy. We had a little tryout to make one team, that's where Robin and Greg were. Robin saw me, invited me to preseason and after a few months he signed me.”

Calichman recalled his first impressions of a then 13-year old Delgado at LAFC: “I knew right off the bat that he was a special player, was told how good he was.”

“Had really wonderful qualities at a young age: a big heart, could cover more field than two people at that age, never got tired, good technique, always solid right-foot, nice soft touch, decent range in his passing... a special player,” recounted Calichman. “He had the heart, so you knew he was going to be a pretty good player. Did I know he was going to be a wonderful professional? I'd like to say I did, but I knew he had the mentality.”

“He went away to residency, came back played for the Chivas Academy,” detailed Calichman. “He kept developing, but his mentality never changed. Came to training early, worked on stuff; last one out of training, hitting balls after. You could see his game was getting better. Robin Fraser was the head coach at Chivas back then and Greg was the assistant, they invited him into first team training and he showed well. Signed his first professional contract.”

Normally, a player-coach relationship is fleeting: momentary; transitional; especially as the player progresses from the youth to the professional ranks. Reunions are rare, but not impossible.

With the demise of Chivas following the 2014 season, a dispersal draft was arranged. Fate would create the opportunity, but a bit of luck was required as well.

Toronto would have the 14th pick.

“Randomly enough, Chivas ends, there's a draft for those players,” explained Calichman. “Obviously, Robin, Greg, myself, we knew what a talent he is. Lo and behold, the early teams don't pick him up, which we thought was strange; immediately picked up Marky when we had the opportunity and he's proven to everyone that they missed out and we were very smart to pick him up.”

Six other players were selected before Delgado; seven teams opted to pass.

With TFC since 2015, Delgado has made 74 regular season appearances for the club, including his 100th MLS appearance on August 5, a 1-1 draw against DC United. 

Having reached that milestone, Delgado reflected on a memorable moment from his third season as a pro, his first goal, against FC Dallas, in 2014.

“I remember that clearly,” recalled Delgado. “The ball was on the left side of the field, Martin [Rivero] switched the field to Mauro Rosales, he took a good touch inside, down the line, outside of the 18. I saw that, ran inside, close to the six area. He cut it back and I pretty much... it was like a tap in, but I had to put enough power behind it and megged the keeper and it went in.”

“I couldn't believe it,” smiled Delgado. “At the time Cubo [Torres] was the goal-scorer and we were assisting. But it was a good opportunity for me, so I ran in, took my chance.”

Delgado would score another later that season, and has steadily added more offense to his game since – 2017's three goals and five assists stands as a combined career high – something Calichman recalled was a feature of his youth career.

“There was a play,” began Calichman. “Marky showed up late to the game, the team was already warming up, but we were short players so he was out there. In the first five minutes, he picked the ball up in midfield, went by three or four guys – he was really offensive when he was younger; he's trying to get that back now – and drove it into the lower corner.” 

“It was a spectacular goal,” continued Calichman. “Anyone watching would have been, 'Oh my god, that kid is phenomenal'. Marky had the ability to have huge impacts on games, now his charge is to do the same as he keeps improving. He has a role on this team, his job is to do that role well and to support the other players.”

With six MLS seasons already in his back-pocket, it is easy to forget that Delgado is still growing as a player.

“He's only getting better,” reminded Calichman. “He's a smart, young kid and he's watching guys like Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou, and Victor Vazquez, and competing against Jonathan Osorio and Armando Cooper. It's a great competitive midfield, so he's constantly learning from those guys. And you can see it, his game keeps improving.”

Braced for season seven, Delgado is no longer the ill-prepared kid who arrived to a frigid Toronto January without the proper outerwear back in 2015.

“All the stuff I've gone through, seen and experienced, was all well worth it,” said Delgado days after his 100th appearance. “I'm happy where I'm at right now. I continued to strive and move forward.”

His message to himself?

“The sky is the limit,” said Delgado. “You started from nowhere; had all the support from your family to get you where you are. Continue pushing on.”

And for Calichman, to see the 13-year old become the man of today: “You're kind of like the proud papa.” 

“Marky's dad and family are obviously very proud,” added Calichman. “As somebody who had him at a young age, I'm very proud to watch him.” 

“He and I can communicate with each other in a level maybe others can't because we've known each other for so long. I feel bad for him that he's had to deal with me for so long; he probably would say the same thing. We've got a nice relationship,” laughed Calichman. “The goal is to keep pushing him, making him better, until he is one of the top midfielders in the country. He might be one of the top young midfielders, but his goal, his charge, is to be one of the top midfielders in the country.”

Said Delgado, a 2017 MLS Cup champion, part of a historic treble-winning season, back in August, with a hint of premonition, about his deep ties to the coaching staff: “It's crazy; it's a small world. We've gone in a full round circle, always somehow coming back together.” 

“I don't know what it was, but maybe it's a sign we've got to stick together, as a family, and move forward,” suggested Delgado. “Because if [we do], the success will come... together.”