TORONTO – The path to the top is not always a straight line, a fact of life – and of soccer – that Sergio Camargo knows all too well.
He did everything a player was supposed to do, moving from his club Unionville Milliken to the Toronto FC Academy in 2009, going off to college in the U.S. – first at Coastal Carolina University, then Syracuse – playing in and winning a USL PDL Championship with K-W United FC, and, finally, signing a first-team contract with Toronto as a homegrown player in 2017.
TFC would win a historic treble that season, lifting the MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, and the Voyageurs Cup. Life was good. But days after the celebratory parade through Toronto’s streets, Camargo saw his option declined and his career at a crossroads.
Camargo opted to join Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and Calgary Foothills FC for the 2018 season with the rumour mill indicating that the Canadian Premier League and Cavalry FC would soon arrive.
“Last year I had to admit I had to do a little sidestep: Wait and be patient,” Camargo told CanPL.ca. “It wasn’t easy.”
He was already a known quantity in the Greater Toronto Area, but having more options can be invaluable.
“It never hurts to get more eyes on you,” Camargo said. “It worked out. Tommy and I developed a relationship on and off the field where we both trust and respect each other; went from there.”
Nowadays, Wheeldon Jr. and Camargo’s teammates in Calgary see parallels between himself and another Sergio at Manchester City – Sergio Aguero.
“He can play as a false 9, he’s very similar in that way to Aguero,” Wheeldon Jr. said, unprompted. “The boys joke about that in training with him because his name, he’s diminutive, very pace-y, strong and hard to knock off the ball.”
Does Camargo buy it?
“I don’t know if it has to do with the same first name or the size factor, but I’ll take that compliment,” Camargo said, with a laugh. “As my career goes on, I’m getting more and more into that goal-scoring role, showing up in areas that I wouldn’t have shown up in in previous years.”
“Now I’m getting those chances and putting (them) away. That’s what Aguero does on a daily basis. He’s their go-to guy, always finds a way to get in that box and find that touch to score the goals.”
It’s a high standard to reach, certainly, but one that Wheeldon Jr. hopes Camargo doesn’t shy away from.
“I’m a massive fan of Sergio,” Wheeldon Jr. said. “We emphasized that with him being one of the first signings.
“He was one of those really good Canadian stories that just needed a place to play and somebody to believe in him. That place is us. He’s a no. 10, the kind we don’t create a lot of in this country.
“His best years are still ahead of him. I think he could have a breakout year with us.”
Camargo has seen an evolution in his game, not unlike the one Jonathan Osorio experienced in his breakout season last year for TFC.
“It’s about confidence and maturity,” Camargo began. “Every year you learn something new that you add to your game and it just clicks.
“That’s what I’m trying to do this year, make everything click and have a good year.”
In a matter of weeks, Camargo will finally have that chance to step back into the national spotlight in the professional game.
“You have no idea, man,” Camargo said, when asked how eagerly he was anticipating May 4.
“Picturing what it is going to be like at Spruce Meadows, at every other stadium, but especially that home crowd. I saw a tweet from the supporters that our whole south section is sold out. It’s going to be an unreal atmosphere; an unreal experience throughout the whole year … having a league of our own.”