Liverpool to Toronto isn't exactly a path well-traveled for player transactions in global soccer, so when Toronto FC acquired Liverpool FC and Scotland youth international fullback Tony Gallacher on loan this week, it came with some intrigue.
Gallacher made one senior appearance with the English champions, in a League Cup match last year, but was a regular with the club's Premier League 2 side (essentially a U-23 league) as well as youth levels with the Scotland national team. He wasn't close to challenging for first team minutes, with the likes of Andy Robertson and recently signed Kostas Tsmikas ahead of him, but typically a player of his ilk leaves for another British side. There are often plenty of options for someone with his pedigree, be it in the lower league in England or his native Scotland.
But Gallacher popped up in Toronto, joining the club as they push on in their perpetual chase of trophies. Despite the unconventional loan move, it wasn't a difficult task to convince Gallacher the best place for his next step was in MLS with Toronto.
"One of Tony’s objectives is that he just wants an opportunity to play first team football at a high level, for a club that has big aspirations and win trophies," GM Ali Curtis told MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview Tuesday. "Particularly for a young player, that’s an incredible opportunity wherever you are on the globe. Every year, MLS becomes more of a destination around the globe. We’re a club that has won a lot of different championships with big players, so I think that helps.”
Toronto's recent acquisitions have been from all over, including domestic, Europe and South America. Their extensive scouting network and relationships have helped put plenty of interesting players on their radar. In Gallacher's case, it was a combination of both. They were scouting another player when they saw Gallacher. A relationship with the Merseyside club from TFC's director of scouting operations Jack Dodd, who worked as an academy scout for Liverpool from 2008-13, helped the deal come to fruition.
“It wasn’t about just scouting the U-23 Premier League, it was more about: What position are we looking at?" Curtis said. "We were looking at the fullback position, then through the relationship from our head scout, we got Tony’s name. It was actually through scouting a different player, we saw Tony and thought wow, he’s a talented player who might fit really well.”
Gallacher slots into the depth chart at left back, behind incumbent starter Justin Morrow. Natural right-sided players Richie Laryea and Auro have each spent time at left back when Morrow was unavailable or getting a rest over the past year as well.
He's is a natural at left back, but has spent time both at right back and center back when needed. Gallacher was quick to point out he feels most comfortable at left back and doesn't mind filling in at right back. Head coach Greg Vanney pointed to Gallacher's comfortability and understanding of left back, with the ability to break lines with passing, getting into the attack as well as the way he reads the game defensively.
“I just turned 21, I need first team games," Gallacher said. "I’ve been playing U-23 football for two years now and it’s been good, but the minute this came around, it was definitely time for me to kick on with my career.”
Gallacher added he didn't consider waiting for another option in England or Scotland to present itself when Toronto's interest was known. It's too early to tell if it's a right fit for both club and player, but there's a chance at him sticking around if things go well.
“We think there’s a future," Curtis said. "He gets an opportunity to experience our environment to see what it’s like, the city, the culture, the league and the tactics. At the end of the year if there’s a strong enough relationship with the club and player, we'll have a conversation about what the future looks like.”