TORONTO – Coming up through the youth ranks of Toronto FC and the Canadian national team, Jordan Hamilton never strayed too far from home. So the Toronto-area native’s recently completed loan to Portugese side CD Trofense was understandably quite the eye-opening experience.
“It was a tough time with the language and the new culture, but it was good to see that not everywhere in the world is as good as what Toronto FC offers,” Hamilton told MLSsoccer.com. “You really learn to appreciate what you have. Coming up through the academy in Toronto, it was always a comfortable feeling, and you’re always around the best facility. So you really appreciate it when you experience something not as good in Europe.”
The loan stint capped off quite the year for the U-20 international.
One of the Toronto FC Academy’s brightest stars, Hamilton earned a first-team contract at the start of 2014. He scored his first goal for Toronto FC in a friendly against Tottenham Hotspur, and in an effort to give him a taste of life abroad, the team sent him out on loan to the Portuguese second tier club following a stint with USL PRO affiliate Wilmington Hammerheads.
He said overcoming the language barrier was tough, but he eventually learned to become proficient in Portuguese in his three months there.
“I learned how to speak [Portuguese], so that wasn’t so bad after a while,” Hamilton said. “Gilberto messaged me a couple of times and I spoke Portuguese to him, over Twitter messaging and whatnot. That was cool.”
Messaging with TFC’s Brazilian striker aside, Hamilton said the toughest challenge wasn’t on the field – he described the level of quality as similar to MLS but a touch more physical. Rather, it was in the relationships with his new teammates.
“You’re kind of an outsider because in Europe [the mentality is] like you’re coming for their spot,” Hamilton said. “You really have to fight every day in training. Just like, in training, it was a fight, like you’re going to war just in practice. You learn to step your game up and that makes you a lot better in all aspects. You need to realize you want to be a professional player in a situation like that.”
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With a new experience under his belt, Hamilton now joins the rest of Canada’s U-20 internationals for camp ahead of their U-20 World Cup qualifying matches in Jamaica. He admitted that he wasn’t sure if he would be with Toronto FC’s senior team next season or with the club’s new USL PRO franchise, but he said he would fight for his spot either way.
He also had words of advice for his former teammate, Doneil Henry, who is pursuing a career in Europe with Cypriot outfit Apollon Limassol.
“Usually Doneil’s the one giving me advice, but I would just say go in from the first day and assert yourself so they know that you mean business,” Hamilton said. “Learn something every day. Accept the culture because it won’t be like Toronto. And also, learn the language.”