CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena wasn’t afraid to make changes during the offseason, nor was he hesitant to go to great lengths to do so.
Arena went as far as Quilmes of Argentina’s Primera Division for two of his newest additions, players he hopes will have dramatic impacts on the club. He drafted midfielder Paolo Cardozo with the 16th overall pick in the recent MLS SuperDraft and signed Cardozo’s teammate, midfielder Miguel Lopez, two weeks later on a season-long loan.
“We’re hopeful they can add a different dimension to our attack,” Arena said. “We know Lopez is a quick, direct, aggressive attacker. He likes the ball at his feet and he’ll take people on. He can play as a second forward or perhaps as an attacking midfielder or wide midfielder. Cardozo has a good first touch, he plays quick and can score some goals for us.
“I think with all these players, whether it’s the very elite player or players underneath that, I think there’s an adjustment they have to go through. You always have to reserve your judgment until we get going and see how they hold up. I’m hopeful they’re both going to help us.”
The transition admittedly has been difficult for the former Quilmes standouts. Neither of them had watched MLS games in their homeland, since games rarely are broadcast in the country and in Quilmes, which is located about 30 minutes south of Buenos Aires. They also knew little, if anything, about the teams in the league.
With the exception of the Galaxy, that is.
“Without a doubt, they’re one of the few teams you hear about,” Lopez said in Spanish through an interpreter. “Because of the stars with the team.”
“I just know the league was growing,” Cardozo said, “and becoming more and more recognizable. This is a great opportunity, and I want to take advantage of it.”
The Columbus Crew were rumored to be interested in Cardozo prior to draft day in mid-January, and he admitted he was taken aback when the Galaxy selected him. Arena said the club had him rated as the best right-sided player in the draft.
Cardozo remembers that day as a nerve-wracking experience.
“I was just very anxious that day, the whole day,” he said. “But when I left Buenos Aires to come to the United States, I was told the Columbus Crew were very interested. When the Galaxy drafted me, I was very surprised.
“But at the same I was very thankful to God to get this opportunity that was presented to me.”
Lopez had similar sentiments.
“Honestly, I was very happy the day they reached out to my club in Argentina,” he said. “I’m very happy to be here and I want to help this team win championships.”
Having his Quilmes teammate with him, he said, will make the adjustment much easier, not only to their new teammates but also to Southern California. Neither of them had been to Los Angeles or the United States before. Cardozo, who was actually was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, moved to Argentina at a young age and has spent most of his life in the country.
“It definitely helps when you have someone there you already know,” Lopez said.
Added Cardozo, “I was very happy when I found out he was going to be here. I’ve played with him for two years, and it’s always good when you go to a new team and someone you know was going to be there with you.
“It definitely will help make things easier.”