TORONTO – Alongside defender Omar Gonzalez, the newest member of the club was introduced on Tuesday morning, shortly after his transfer was announced.
Erickson Gallardo, a 22-year-old winger, comes to Toronto FC after four seasons with his hometown club, Zamora FC, based in Barinas, Venezuela.
Language no barrier, Gallardo was emphatic in expressing his delight at his new home.
“I'm really happy because it is one of my dreams to come here,” said Gallardo through a translator. “A dream that I had when I played with the national team against Ecuador the past month.”
Gallardo made his international debut for Venezuela in that friendly against the Ecuadoreans on June 2.
“I'm happy because I came to a team that is always looking for trophies and winning,” explained Gallardo. “I'm excited for the history that the club has. I want to support everything I can with my game, with my play, and get more trophies with the team.”
His arrival, along with the signing of Jacob Shaffelburg, means Greg Vanney has the wingers he has long desired at his disposal heading into the second part of the MLS season.
Gallardo described what he brings to the pitch: “I'm a player that has a lot of speed, very quick on the attack. I like to do a lot of shifts to open up the field on both sides.”
“I'm very smart, can read the game that my teammates are playing, so I can support the attack; very aggressive,” he added. “I'm looking to keep growing and adapt really quick to the team.”
TFC General Manager Ali Curtis relayed what the team sees in Gallardo and where that some of that growth will come.
“He's a player that can play on both wings and play high. He likes going forward,” said Curtis. “We'll need to work with him on defensive shape, playing both sides of the ball, the things that we expect from all of our players. Tactically, how we want to move the ball and our team shape when we don't have the ball. Some homework to get him up to speed as quickly as possible.”
As Gallardo mentioned, it was the history of winning that captured his attention.
“I watched a couple games and followed the news about TFC on the internet,” said Gallardo. “I knew they were [MLS] Champions in 2017 and runners-up for the Concacaf Champions League. I knew they had seven titles in the Canadian Championship, knew they were a winning team that likes to get trophies.”
It helped that there has been an influx of his countrymen who have found MLS success in recent years.
“Josef Martinez, Jefferson Savarino,” listed Gallardo, at Atlanta United FC and Real Salt Lake, respectively. “I followed the league because of them. It was always a dream for me to come abroad, leave Venezuela, to play in a different country.”
“I have a lot of history from Venezuela that I enjoyed a lot,” reminisced the winger, sharing one of his favourite memories: scoring the game-winner in the second leg of the final of the 2018 Octogonal Apertura last June that secured Zamora a spot in the group stage of the 2019 Copa Libertadores with a 2-1 aggregate victory.
“In 2018, I was on the bench as a substitute, I came on and scored the winning goal to secure a spot in Copa Libertadores. That meant a lot,” reflected Gallardo. “I want to come here, face all the challenges that we have to face in order to win the CCL, MLS, and Canadian Championship.”
It is hard to make the decision to leave home in pursuit of the dream.
“I always talked to my dad, my wife, my agent, they support me a lot, told me that I had to remain calm, that the moment to leave was going to come at some point,” explained Gallardo. “I'm really excited. Of course, for the family, I'm sad because they stayed behind, but they know I'm coming here to work, to keep going, to pursue a dream. They know that if I keep winning, showing everything for the future, it will be also for them.”
Before coming to Toronto and Canada, he looked to the internet for some insight about the city and the country, but it was a conversation with a member of the TFC staff that gave him the most important detail.
“He mentioned to me it that it's a very nice country; people are very kind,” relayed Gallardo. “That's something I liked a lot because I feel if you are respectful and kind to others, you're going to get that back to you. I'm very happy to move, very excited to be here, bring my talent to the club, and winning more trophies with the club.”
His teammates have made that point fact; helpfully more than a few speak Spanish.
“All have been very helpful, especially with the language because I don't speak any English,” thanked Gallardo. “But I'm looking forward to learning, it's something I really want to do. Super helpful with translation, showing me things I have to do, things that are happening on the pitch so I understand. It's been great. The facilities are excellent and the club has provided a lot of support in this transition.”
More support will be needed as the young TAM addition adjusts to his new team, new league, and new home.
“To be fair, there is a level of patience that we have to have,” said Vanney. “I don't anticipate any of us are looking at him, saying he's going to save us in the second half of the season – whatever 'save' means.”
“We look at him as a good player that we're committing long term to. We like what he brings: something different to our group. We'll have him ready to play in this league and compete and be successful as quickly as possible.”