TORONTO – There’s no arguing that it’s been an up-and-down season for Gilberto.
One of Toronto FC’s three new Designated Players signed in the offseason suffered a slow start to the season, came on strong in the summer months but now faces the possibility that his new team may not make the playoffs.
Heading into Saturday’s match against Canadian rival Montreal Impact (2 pm ET; UDN, TSN in Canada), TFC must win to keep their season going. No other result will be good enough.
But for Gilberto, no matter what happens, it’s also been an important season for all of TFC’s new pieces to come together.
“There are other teams in the league that have been together for three, four years, so it’s easier for them to play together because they’re used to each other,” Gilberto said. “As our team continues to grow and gel together, we’re going to be a strong team.”
Injuries also factored into the Brazilian forward’s early struggles, but after opening his account against New York on June 27 he’s found his feet, scoring six more goals to date.
It’s far shy of the 20-goal mark he set earlier in the year, but Gilberto said he sees enough talent in the team to not only get his goal scoring numbers up but build some more team chemistry, too.
But, when asked about that growth with strike partner Jermain Defoe, Gilberto only offered a “no comment.”
However, Gilberto did open up about his other teammates and the quality of the service he receives game in and game out. Gilberto explained that, in his experience, he only gets about three to four chances each game. He clarified, though, that he’s been happy with the service he gets from his teammates but admitted he has had to adapt to the style of passing in Major League Soccer.
“The thing that surprised me really is the speed at which the ball comes into you,” Gilberto said. “In Brazil, we’re more technical, and we build up the play. But here, the speed and the power the ball has when it comes to you was something I had to adapt to.”
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He isn’t complaining, though. Gilberto rarely does. Win, lose or draw, the Brazilian forward finds a positive. His infectious smile and cheerful personality makes him a popular character in the team.
It’s a kind of warmth he brought with him from the sunny shores of Brazil.
“You know, I like to have fun a lot, and sometimes I like to joke around with the guys in there, poke fun at them and have a laugh with them as well,” Gilberto said. “Football’s about being happy. That’s what Neymar says: You have to be happy every day. At the same time, when you’re on the training pitch or out there on the field, you’re there to work. You have to have both; you have to have the serious time, and you have to have fun.”
Perhaps that’s why he has no room for the talk coming out of Impact camp when their team captain Patrice Bernier said they’d like to ruin TFC’s season by eliminating them from postseason contention.
“That’s something they say to pump up the supporters, really,” Gilberto said. “It’s something they shouldn’t be doing. We’re both from Canada. We’re both close to the same region, so I don’t really get why they’re on about that. We’re just going to be focused on the match regardless of what they say or don’t say; we’re still going out there to win.”