Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

TORONTO – After three seasons, Nick DeLeon is ready to say goodbye to Toronto.

The 31-year-old midfielder is out of contract with Toronto FC and is looking to return to his family. His wife Jordan, four-year-old son Milo and five-year-old daughter Marlee are in Arizona, where they have had more of a family support system during the pandemic.

“I will definitely be playing my free agent card. We just want to see what kind of interest there is out there, ”DeLeon said. “But there’s nothing concrete right now. And yes, I certainly have places I would like to go, but I would like to keep it close to my chest.”

Toronto is not an option.

“I’ll not be coming back here next year. No chance. I’ll be back to the US and be close to family after the last two years.”

His family moved to the states last season with Toronto forced south of the border due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

When the club returned to Toronto in July, DeLeon lived with some roommates on an Airbnb near TFC’s North Toronto training center.

“This season has probably been the hardest in my career, I would say,” he said. “And there are many reasons for that.”

They included a coaching change and DeLeon saw limited action. He calls it a “huge learning year”.

“My family is my escape,” he explained. “So I can come home and shut down football and be with my family. I did not have my family and I did not play. So it was a double push. It was hard.”

Toronto FC midfielder Nick DeLeon (18) is tackled by New York City midfielder Valentin Castellanos (11) during the second half of the MLS football action in Toronto on Saturday, August 7, 2021.

He says he had to learn different ways to deal with stress.

“My God, mentally, I went through the wrestler this year. I’ve never experienced anything like depression. Holy crap, this year I’m glad it’s almost over. We’ll say it like that. It’s been a hell of a year. ”

“Some days I could distract myself, some days I could not,” he added.

DeLeon, who spent seven seasons at DC United before coming to Toronto via the re-entry draft in 2018, appeared in 16 games in the regular season this year, including just five starts. His 628 minutes of play was the lowest season total of his career.

Asked if he got a reason for such limited playing time, DeLeon replied, “Not any good, I would say.”

But he says he understands the club looked ahead, knowing that he probably would not be part of their future plans.

While the versatile DeLeon only scored 10 times in his 74 appearances in regular season and playoffs for Toronto, he came up big in October 2019 when his strike with highlights as a replacement at Mercedes-Benz Stadium moved TFC into the MLS Cup final for third. time in four years in a 2-1 victory.

To take a pass from Alejandro Pozuelo on the edge of Atlanta’s penalty box. DeLeon made a 360 to distance himself from a couple of defenders and then hammered a shot with his right foot into the top corner.

DeLeon almost went out for another highlight-wheel moment in Sunday’s Canadian Championship final in Montreal. When he came off the bench again, he just missed getting to a long ball that fell into Montreal’s penalty box in the 90th minute. Montreal goalkeeper Sebastian Breza got a foot in it, but Toronto’s Ifunanyachi Achara drove the ball back to Jordan Perruzza, whose shot bounced off the post.

Toronto lost 1-0.

DeLeon signaled in March that he had no plans to get the COVID vaccine, saying he was abstaining from drugs.

“It’s my personal choice, and it’s the way I choose to live my life. And I will not change that for anyone, he said at the time. “I know who I am and I’m sure of it.”

He says being vaccinated at first complicated life at the club.

“But it’s because I let it. I let the media and I let the hype get into my head, like most people. And it made life hard. But once I’ve tuned those things out, that’s what it’s. is.”

He had to wear a mask all the time and be tested every other day. “Not such a big deal.”

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 23, 2021

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