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Soolsma reaping benefits after winter work in homeland

TORONTO – When Nick Soolsma returned to Toronto FC for his second season, he was prepared in more ways than one.

Not only had the 24-year-old Dutch forward made the adjustment to MLS, but he also used the offseason to work on his fitness with a trainer in Amsterdam.

The results are clear to see and Soolsma is proud of the progress he made during the winter months in his homeland.

“I did a lot of things for myself,” Soolsma said on Thursday after training at BMO Field ahead of Saturday's match vs. Chivas USA (4:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). “We had a schedule for what we had to do for ourselves at home. I did the schedule and also I worked with a trainer doing things for myself.”

The powerful winger has been one of the Reds’ most consistent players so far this season, providing energy in abundance from the right-hand side.

WATCH: Soolsma slots it low

Soolsma combined with Ryan Johnson to provide Toronto FC with their biggest moment in an otherwise disappointing start to the season, as Toronto find themselves 0-4 in league play.

The Dutchman scored the winning goal on a cross from Johnson in the 2-1 victory over LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center on March 14, which put Toronto into the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. Soolsma also set up Johnson for the first goal of that game.

He came to preseason training looking fitter, and it wasn’t by chance. Soolsma went the extra step to improve himself as a player and so far it looks to be paying off. His offseason program included working on “a little more explosive things,” he explained.

Soolsma also noted that he’s adjusted to the longer trips which come with playing in MLS, far longer than he had experienced before.

In the Netherlands, where he played in the youth system of FC Volendam before moving to HFC Haarlem, FC Chabab and VV Young Boys, he said his longest trip was be a two-hour bus ride.

“Last year, I think I had some problems in the beginning with everything, with the travelling and with all kinds of new things that I was not used to do,” he said. “It took me time to get used to all those things. Now I know what to expect. I know the travelling and playing a lot of games after each other, I know the league. I feel comfortable now.”

Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter has been very pleased with his fellow countryman’s progression after Soolsma’s hard work in the offseason.

“He’s doing it well,” Winter said. “Last year he needed some time to get used to the league, and you can see he has adapted and he has become stronger.”