TORONTO – Marky Delgado stands all of five-foot-nine-inches, but his imposing play on the field for Toronto FC this season belies his modest frame.
In his third campaign for the Reds, the young midfielder has firmly established himself as a key starter, tallying one goal and adding an assist in 10 league appearances. At the same time he’s won consistent plaudits from the coaching staff for his overall form, characterized by his swift feet, quick decision-making, and pace in transition.
That Delgado has been able to do this on a side with TFC’s depth, where two of the three central midfield spots are locked down by Michael Bradley and Victor Vazquez, and where competition for starting spots is fierce, says even more about his accomplishment.
How has Delgado earned more playing time on one of the deepest teams in Major League Soccer? When Sportsnet posed that very question the California native, he gave a very succinct answer.
“Consistency. This has been my game, but I’ve never really been consistent with it. [I’ve been] on and off throughout the past years I’ve been here. This year I’ve been more consistent. That’s how I’ve been able to maintain my spot,” Delgado said.
Consistency is only one reason for Delgado’s ascent, though.
One of the things coach Greg Vanney has stressed this season is quick ball movement. He wants his players to be efficient with their touches on the ball, and not to linger too long while in possession. In this regard, Delgado has become a vital cog in the Reds’ attack, with Vanney calling him one of the team’s most efficient players, and someone who is always looking to combine and link up with his teammates.
“He gives whatever time he has to the next guy, and that’s something that our team needs. The guys who need time [on the ball] are guys who are ultimate playmakers for us: Sebastian [Giovinco] and Jozy [Altidore], Michael [Bradley] and Victor [Vazquez]. These guys are typically the ones who take a little bit extra time, especially Jozy and Seba – they need the extra time in the final third because teams are marking them so closely,” Vanney explained.
“If any steals time from them, it makes their job that much more difficult. Marky is such an efficient player who very rarely steals any time from anybody else on the field, and is usually giving his time to [others]. That’s what makes him so valuable to this group right now.”
Still only 22, Delgado is somewhat of an MLS veteran, having made his league debut as a 17-year-old for Chivas USA during the 2012 campaign.
“Marky’s been fantastic this season. It’s funny to call him a young player – I know he’s still young, but he’s been around so long,” veteran defender Drew Moor stated.
“He has won a starting spot. He might not always get to start but when he’s on the field he’s a huge part of this team. He keeps it simple, he plays one and two touch, his movement off the ball is great.”
Vanney has a long history with Delgado. TFC’s coach was the one who signed Delgado as a homegrown player when he served as technical director of Chivas USA’s youth academy. Vanney jumped at the chance to pick up Delgado when it was time for Toronto to select in the 2014 dispersal draft.
“He really hasn’t changed who he is a as a player. Even when he was 16 or 17, he had an incredible capacity to cover ground. He would be sprinting and he does it with a high velocity – he doesn’t just jog around. When he runs, he really goes for it, and he’s committed to that,” Vanney offered.
What’s changed is that Delgado is more defensively sound than he was at the beginning of his career.
“How he’s evolved is he’s continued to get better defensively and understand his responsibility. He continues to transition quickly, which is a huge thing for us. He’s one of our quickest guys [in terms of] going from a defensive position into an attacking position, or from an attacking position to dropping back into a good defensive position,” Vanney explained.
Delgado’s improved defensive play hasn’t gone unnoticed by Moor.
“One thing that you might not notice about him unless you watch closely is he gets in such good defensive positions and he helps us out a massive amount,” Moor said.
Aside from receiving tutoring from Vanney, a former defender during his playing days, Delgado has committed himself to studying European clubs who play a similar style and formation as TFC in order to get a better idea of how he should play in transition and when taking up defensive postures.
That’s been a big part of my game this year. I’ve really been trying to focus on my defensive game. The coaches have talked to me about [it] over the years. I came into this year focusing on being [more] sound with it,” Delgado said.