Two months ago, midfielder Marky Delgado earned his first U.S. Men’s National Team call-up at the team’s annual January Camp. Though he didn’t earn his first cap against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Delgado made his mark in practice.
He carried that confidence into last week, when he ventured into one of Mexico’s most-intimidating venues as the youngest player on the field. Toronto FC entered Tigres UANL’s Estadio Universatario- also known as the formidable El Volcán- for the crucial second leg of the squads’ CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup.
The 22-year-old provided the game-tying assist in a 2-1 comeback victory at home. On the road for second leg in Nuevo León, Toronto fell 3-2, but the result sufficed to clinch the Reds a historic trip to the tournament semifinals.
Now, Delgado is back with the MNT for his second camp. He’s one of only six players to receive consecutive call-ups. Just three months into 2018, it’s already been a year of extraordinary experiences for Marky Delgado.
“It was a special moment for me getting the call-up in January,” Delgado said. “I was really excited; it’s what I’ve been working towards. Then the Champions League matches were special. I grew up watching Liga MX, so I was really excited. In the first game at home, I had a lot of energy, running around, really trying to get stuck in, trying to create plays. Going to Tigres was something special, an incredible crowd. It’s an experience I won’t forget.”
This year will have to be extraordinary if Delgado hopes to top 2017. In a record-breaking season for Toronto FC, Delgado broke through as a standout in the midfield. The Reds recorded M.L.S.’ treble as MLS Cup champions, Canadian Cup victors, and Supporters’ Shield winners. Delgado served as a key cog in TFC’s well-oiled machine.
“I just had a mindset of going in and not holding back throughout the whole season,” Delgado said. “It’s still continuing this season. I just really pushed myself past my limits last year and at the end of the day, we came out with the championship.”
As heavy hitters Michael Bradley and Spanish vet Victor Vasquez headline the Toronto midfield, Delgado can sometimes be overlooked. But even under-the-radar, he makes the players around him better. As greater and greater opportunities come his way, Delgado has taken advantage.
“I learn from Michael and Victor and try to read the game really well,” Delgado said. “I like to get stuck in tackles and I like to put in the work. My movement off the ball is really good and my positioning on the field is pretty good as well. It really helps other players out in transition. Whenever we win a ball, I’m running out wide to open up the field. All these little things really add up and help the team.”
Delgado played only two minutes in Toronto’s 2016 run to the MLS Cup and didn’t even make the 18 for the championship match. Last season, he played in every single playoff match and logged 89 minutes in TFC’s triumphant final.
Consistently strong showings as an integral part of the league champs caught the attention of the MNT, and now in his second camp he’s surrounded by several familiar faces. Six of his teammates from the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup have come to Cary for the friendly against Paraguay. The New Zealand alumni and the rest of a young, hungry roster will look to make a National Team impression in North Carolina.
For Delgado, the potential to lock down a regular spot with the MNT could go a long way to make 2018 rival a remarkable 2017.
“I’m trying to solidify my positioning here with the U.S. and I’m trying to improve my game,” Delgado said. “Hopefully I can stay here as we move towards the future.”