NEW YORK – Paolo Cardozo, the LA Galaxy’s first pick in the MLS SuperDraft, never expected that Bruce Arena would be the one to select him last week in Baltimore.
In attendance for the event, the diminutive Uruguayan believed all along that the Columbus Crew would be his team of destiny. After all, it was Crew representatives who scouted him while he was playing in Argentina for the Quilmes reserve team.
But after the Crew took Indiana defender Rich Balchan with pick No. 12 and then Michigan’s Justin Meram at No. 15, Cardozo became puzzled and increasingly nervous.
“At the draft, [the Crew] spoke to me and my representative said that it could be Columbus to pick me,” Cardozo said on the FutbolMLS.com podcast Tiro Libre. “I was very nervous. Team by team was passing and they weren’t picking me. Even teams that talked to me a lot.
“When [the Galaxy's] turn came, I wasn’t expecting it. It surprised me but luckily it was the Galaxy. I’m happy.”
Los Angeles got a good look at him in three matches at the MLS Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cardozo was a victim of nerves in a forgettable first game but then came on strong in his last two appearances. He showed true No. 10 qualities: a knack for always being around the ball and creating for his teammates.
Arena, who does not have a classic No. 10 playmaker on his roster, took a chance on the 21-year-old, who can be compared to Argentine Diego Buonanotte in both stature and technical ability. In MLS, he is more like a quicker and more mobile version of Philadelphia’s Roger Torres.
“We haven’t spoken on what [Bruce Arena] expects from me but he said he’s happy to have me in the group and wants me to work with the rest of the team,” Cardozo said. “I just really want to start training.”
For now, Cardozo is currently stationed in a Los Angeles hotel and in the meantime has already familiarized himself with the Home Depot Center. He is eager to get started and make a name for himself in the US to help his family, who until recently were residing in one of the poorer sections of Buenos Aires.
“I want to have a good preseason and play in as many games as possible and show people and the technical staff why they picked me,” Cardozo said. “That’s what I’m working on – to do the best possible.”