Soft-spoken off the pitch, tenacious upon it, Marky Delgado emerged from the ashes of Chivas USA to impress in his first season with Toronto FC last season.
And the 20-year-old midfielder sits poised to reach even greater heights in this his fifth MLS campaign.
Delgado meshes in seamlessly among his more high-profile teammates and has garnered praise for his quality and work-rate. He has risen to be one of TFC's stories of the season alongside the exploits of 2015 MVP Sebastian Giovinco and the continued development of Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio.
But what is really known about him? MLSsoccer.com caught up with the player to see what makes him tick.
He sought some family time and sun during the winter
Delgado spent the offseason recharging his batteries by visiting his family in California, soaking up the sun, and spending time with his girlfriend -- a trip to Disneyland is never a bad idea.
The move north from the comforts of his SoCal home was not without its challenges – a new club, a new country, living on his own; the time with the family was time well spent.
“It was great to catch up with everybody,” said Delgado from training in early February. “I love the weather out there... It's nice here though [too],” he added quickly – the very next day the temperature in Toronto dropped precipitously. Fortunately for Delgado and the rest of the squad, they were Florida-bound within days.
He has goals for the new season
Having set new career highs for starts (19), minutes (1,699), goals (3), and assists (3) in 2015, Delgado refrained from setting specific targets for the upcoming season, but stated “I always try to better my last season. That's my goal: to top my last season.”
And with timely runs into the area such as the one he had against the Red Bulls last Sunday, he will definitely do so.
No superstitions, but one ritual
Professional athletes are notoriously creatures of habit and luck, but Delgado eschews such concerns, indulging in only one constant.
“I always [cross myself and point to the heavens, when I] step on the field,” motioned Delgado. “Give thanks to the Man for helping me be in the position I am today.”
A journey that began at the age of four
Delgado began his soccer career in Pomona, kicking a ball with his father during halftime of his brother's game. A coach noticed his strong foot, offered a spot, and soon young Marky was playing with kids two or three years older.
From those humble origins to club soccer, Delgado was spotted by the Chivas USA academy, and spent some time with the U17 residency program, before signing a MLS Homegrown deal at the tender age of 16.
Modeling his game on the sublime skills of a legendary Barcelona midfielder
Delgado's role model, now as when growing up, is “still the same player: Andres Iniesta.”
“[He's a] great player, simple, moves the ball. Never holds it too long, keeps the game moving. I've always looked up to him.”
A Barcelona fan, he also takes in the Premier League from time to time
Unwilling to term himself a 'soccer junkie,' Delgado watches “when there's a good game on.”
“I like the EPL, the intensity is really high, it's pretty crazy. I like La Liga as well, my favorite team is Barcelona, so I love to watch them play,” explained Delgado.
Though he's never been to experience the Camp Nou atmosphere first hand, “I haven't. I should. I want to,” he concluded.
Holding onto memories, but packs light
Speaking last October, Delgado revealed some sentimentality, “I've got a lot of stuff: my jerseys, pictures, a little collection of Chivas stuff.”
But as far as road trip essentials are concerned, he keeps it simple, quickly responding, “my phone. Nobody goes without their phone.”
He has international aspirations
Having represented the USA at the U-17, U-18, and U-20 levels, Delgado is still awaiting his next taste of international action.
He is age-eligible for the U-23 side, who face Colombia in the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL playoff this month to determine which nation will earn the final spot at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, but has yet to be included in Andreas Herzog's squad.
“[I] haven't heard anything, [from either Herzog or USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann],” said Delgado. “I'm still on the waiting list, I guess”
When not on the pitch, he enjoys exploring his new home
In October, Delgado recounted interests away from the game, which included “movies, video games, going out, seeing new views, experiencing new things. I like to get out with my girlfriend a lot.
“We've gone to the Aquarium, the CN Tower; we're trying to go to a few Raptors games. We want to experience all that, so we've got a lot more things [to do].”
Come February, he admitted he hadn't yet had a chance to explore further, but noted “I'm still having that itch to look around, do some research into the city. I know there's a lot of cool things around.”
He came prepared for the January chill this time
Unlike last season, when he reported to camp without a winter coat, Delgado arrived properly attired for the Canadian winter.
“I showed up at the airport in mid-January [last season] in only a thermal and a sweater. I thought I would be OK. When I got here, the guy picking me up asked, 'Is that all you brought?' And I said, 'Yeah, Why?' And he responded, “Oh God, Good Luck!'
His journey from sun to snow continues.