TORONTO – The 2014 season was a time of adjustment for Toronto FC’s Brazilian forward Gilberto, as the 24-year-old striker made the switch to Major League Soccer after spending his entire career to date in the Brazilian league.
He was courted courtside at a Toronto Raptors NBA game, wooed by TFC executives Tim Leiweke and Tim Bezbatchenko and joined the club with plenty of promise and optimism. But injuries in the first part of the season, coupled with the steep learning curve posed by his new environment, saw the Designated Player score seven goals in 28 games.
Despite the slow start, Gilberto says his idea of the league’s style differed from the reality.
“I was expecting a more technical league as opposed to physical,” Gilberto said via translator during the team's year-end media availability. “When I arrived, it was a little bit difficult for me to adapt to that style of play. I did adapt towards the end. I’m a little gutted that I didn’t get to 20; I didn’t even hit 10.
“However, I’m excited about what’s coming. I’m a No. 9, so a No. 9 is supposed to score goals. I’m looking forward to next year to hit that goal.”
A classic No. 9 like Gilberto is often paired with “No. 10,” or attacking midfielder. This season, he was sometimes placed behind two forwards in that playmaking role for TFC, but that prevented him from pushing forward at will.
It’s a position Gilberto says he’d like to see reinforced for next year.
“We have a strong team, but we are missing a true No. 10 there,” he said this week. “When I did drop in, I was able to provide a lot of passes and assists to Jackson, to [Jermain] Defoe and to [Luke] Moore. But it’s not my true position. Next year, I’m hoping that I can play more of a fixed role in a No. 9 position, play my game, my style of game and do my job and score the goals I need to score.”
Gilberto says he and his teammates will work to perfect the kinds of passes he receives to maximize his impact on the field.
“Any type of pass is good but that being said, I prefer a ball that’s more technical as opposed to a ball that’s hit harder,” Gilberto said. “If we can bring maybe someone that can play those quality passes to put me into space, a ball that a defender won’t get to or the keeper won’t get to, because if I’m one-on-one with the keeper, I like my chances. Any pass will do, but if I had to pick, something more technical.”
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At the start of the season, Gilberto set a scoring target: 20 goals. He believes he can hit that goal in 2015, but steered clear of any bold predictions.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I want to score a lot of goals, obviously. I didn’t hit my goal this year but next year, I’m going to be more prepared. I understand the league.
“Look, we’re going to have difficulties next year as well, but we’re better prepared to handle those challenges we’ll face as a team. I’m ready to score goals next year.”