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Auro’s value to Toronto FC is through the roof

Goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell has yet to make a save for Toronto FC this season, but his importance to the club goes beyond what he can do on the field.

Patterson-Sewell, 31, is an American who grew up in Australia before moving to Belgium when he was a teenager in 2004 and then on to Sheffield Wednesday’s youth academy in England. In 2005, he turned pro Down Under.

From 2011-16, the lanky goalkeeper played in Portugal, signing with TFC in February 2018. As of now, he’s basically third on the Reds’ depth chart in net, behind Alex Bono and Quentin Westberg. But he makes the best of the situation and does what he can to contribute to the club anyway he can, training hard and staying ready to play.

Patterson-Sewell helps the team in another, unofficial, capacity — taking Toronto’s emerging star defender, Auro, under his wing.

Auro is not often mentioned when TFC fans talk about the club’s best players. Since arriving in T.O., he has played in the shadow of Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and, now this season, Alejandro Pozuelo.

But ask anyone with the squad and they’ll tell you that the 23-year Brazilian’s value is sky high.

“I think he has the capacity to be one of the best right backs in our league, if not the best right back,” said coach Greg Vanney. “He’s a nice weapon to have.”

Auro signed with the Sao Paulo youth academy when he was 14 and appeared in 34 matches for Sao Paulo F.C. from 2014-17.

He was also a member of Brazil’s under-17 and under-20 teams. The pedigree is there, though Vanney was still taken aback when Auro played his first match for the Reds, a pre-season game in 2018 against Mexican powerhouse Club America.

“In the first 15 minutes that he stepped on the field (I was thinking) this kid is going to be fantastic in this league,” said Vanney. “He is such a good soccer-playing right back. Not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s clever and smart in how he defends. He doesn’t panic, he relaxes and he finds a solution. Last weekend (against NYCFC) he got a ball with three guys around him and he put his foot on it and then (beat) the guy and then he took a foul. He didn’t have an out, but because he doesn’t panic and he’s so clever and comfortable technically, that he finds a solution where sometimes there are no solutions.

“We knew this kid was going to be special, big-tim.”

The Reds had Auro on loan from Sao Paulo last season and opted to keep him permanently in December. That announcement came with very little fanfare compared to when Toronto brought in Pozuelo a couple of weeks ago. Defender’s generally don’t come to the MLS with the same hype as forwards or attacking midfielders, even if they’re as ultra-talented as Auro.

“I think any time you bring in foreign guys, they’re looking for guys to come in and score goals or be a No.10 (attacking midfielder) who makes the final pass,” said Patterson-Sewell. “But full backs with attack, they’re a key piece to your puzzle. It’s easy to get overlooked in those kinds of positions, but everybody here understands what a good player he is.”

Auro admitted that there was some apprehension when he joined TFC last season, moving to a new league in a foreign land and not speaking English. But he talked to former TFC forward Gilberto and to Artur, one of his old teammates in Sao Paulo who plays in Columbus, about the MLS. And then after joining TFC, he discovered that there was a player on the roster, Patterson-Sewell, who spoke Portuguese, his native language. The two have become good friends and now live in the same condo, on the same floor, in downtown Toronto.

“I was a foreign guy once (in Portugal) and it’s not easy,” said Patterson-Sewell. “My thing is, anytime I can help a foreign guy settle, that’s big, because I was in the same boat years ago.”

If Patterson-Sewell isn’t around and someone needs to talk with Auro, TFC communications coordinator Alejandra Rueda, a native of Colombia, translates, though it’s an interesting exchange. When the Sun interviewed Auro on Wednesday, Rueda and Auro conversed in a mix of Spanish and Portuguese. Different, but it worked.

Auro grew up in Villa Maria, a poor section of Sao Paulo and dreamed that soccer would be his ticket to a better life.

“My dad and my mom had to work a lot, even just to get my shoes,” Auro said. “We used to live in apartment and sometimes we had trouble paying the rent. It was hard. “

Growing up poor has given Auro a hunger to be the best player he can. His dream, besides helping TFC win championships, is to one day return to his homeland and represent Brazil at the World Cup. And, before all that, to learn English.

“I look forward to the day when his personality can come out in English,” said Vanney “He doesn’t have that confidence yet in the language to bring out his personality. But you can tell he is a good kid with a great way about him.”

SBuffery@postmedia.comTwitter @Beezersun

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