Toronto FC veteran Nick DeLeon stranded in ‘straight mode’ for rest of season

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There aren’t many bells and whistles in Nick DeLeon’s life right now.

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Well, actually there are whistles. He hears them during training and games, although the Toronto FC veteran leads a very simple, almost austere lifestyle.

Most of the TFC players, coaches and field staff are excited to be back in Toronto after spending much of last year and the start of this season training and living in the United States. due to border restrictions related to COVID-19. But for DeLeon, the 2021 season is not much different from the 2020 one in that he is once again far from his wife Jordan and his two young children, Marlee and Milo. And he’s a killer.

“My family is still in Arizona,” DeLeon said following a workout at BMO Training Ground Thursday. “But for everyone this (Toronto) is home, and it’s good for the kids to be back to school, come back with other important people and be in your bed, just little things like that. Just comfort and routine. Professional athletes, some are so strict with their routine, and being here really helps that. “

DeLeon has a routine, and it’s pretty simple: go to workout, come home, and stay put. And the next day repeat. The Phoenix native lives in an Airbnb with roommates near the BMO training ground and, since he’s not fully immunized, there is little else he can do. DeLeon made it clear in March that he does not trust vaccines and will never get vaccinated against COVID-19. But due to the federal government’s national interest exemption, partially vaccinated or unvaccinated people can participate in work activities, including training and games, upon receiving a negative COVID-19 test. This means DeLeon can play both at home and in the US and train.

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“That’s all I have to do at this point,” said the third-year TFC midfielder. “It’s gravy. I don’t have to go out and party and do all that. I’m in a straight line – finish as strong as I can for three or four months, then join my family. And that’s strictly where I think. “

DeLeon says he misses his family terribly every day and that the only real respite he gets from it is to train and play.

“It’s the best part of my day here to come here and train,” he said. “This is what I’m looking forward to.

“There are good days and better days. But the majority are good days, ”added DeLeon. “I’ll have a day or two a week where it’s heavy, where I really miss family. But I feel like right now everyone has stuff (going on). I have roommates in my house who are going through the same thing, with family in Russia.

DeLeon said he and his wife decided ahead of the 2021 MLS season that the family would stay at home in Arizona no matter where the team ended up.

“At the start of the year, we didn’t know how long we would be in Florida. And with last year and all the unknowns… well, the unknown is the biggest stressor, ”DeLeon said. “So since the start of the year, we just said, whatever happens, (my wife) is going to be moving (to Arizona) for the year. She has a job, the kids are in school and they have a good routine and we don’t want to mess it up.

When asked if he’d rather be alone in Toronto or Florida at this point, DeLeon didn’t hesitate.

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“Florida,” he said. “But for the sake of the team, 100% here.”

DeLeon, who has scored 12 goals during his time with the Reds including a few major goals in key games, is in the final year of his contract and said his decision has already been made on what he will do at the future. He hasn’t said he won’t return to TFC, but given his situation and the fact that border restrictions could still be a part of life next year and beyond, it seems unlikely that he please come back to play in the north. from the border.

“I will not say anything at the moment,” he said. “I am not retiring. Not yet. Soon, but not yet.

DeLeon had a lot to say that the organization removed the “interim” tag from head coach Javier Perez’s job title. Earlier this week it was announced that Perez is now the full head coach and will remain so at least until the end of the 2021 season. The club have collected points in six of the seven games since Perez took over from Chris Armas earlier this season.

“I think it gives Javey a better opportunity to play with the team as he sees fit instead of being so focused on results,” DeLeon said, adding that Perez doesn’t have to feel like s ‘he’s fighting to keep his job for the rest of the season. season. “Now that he has that stability I think you’re going to start to see the different little niceties that Javey brings to this team.

I’m really excited for this.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the team (but) I think it gives the team a bit more stability,” added Perez. “The team was very tense every time we went out on the pitch. And I think the performance is very difficult to improve if you play tight. You still need to be energetic and focused, but at the same time, you need some sort of calm to play. And I think the team felt that kind of pressure – if we lose the next game, there will be another change. So at the moment we have the backs of the leadership and everyone can feel as comfortable as we can be in the position we are in. “

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