Like most foreign players, Cristian Maidana saw opportunity in moving to Major League Soccer.
The 27-year-old winger is a key part of the Union's new-look midfield.
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“First, in coming here, this is a new experience for me,” Maidana told philadelphiaunion.com through a translator. “I spoke with my wife, and we thought it was a good decision to come here. It was a good opportunity for me. Coming from Argentina, it's a difficult transition, and it's a difficult situation there, so it's a good opportunity for me to come here and be a part of this league and part of this team.”
Nicknamed “Chaco," Maidana began his career at home, appearing more than 40 times for top flight club Banfield.
His performances there earned a three million dollar move to Spartak Moscow in Russia's Premier League.
The next four year years were a mixed bag, with loan spells to Spain and Argentina and injury complications as well.
But his time in Russia provided some crucial international experience. He made a brief appearance in a 2010 Champion's League group stage game, and also played in both games of the 2008/2009 UCL qualifying series against Dynamo Kiev. His first two years in Russia also provided UEFA Cup minutes against Marseille, Udinese, and NEC Nijmegen. Domestic league matches were played against quality sides like CSKA, Zenit, and Rubin Kazan.
Following those years in Russia, Maidana signed with Rangers de Talca in Chile, and took on further loan spells with Argentinos Juniors and Liga MX club Atlante.
The United States will be the sixth country he has played in.
“In reality, I didn't really know a lot about the city,” said Maidana of his Philadelphia move. “I never thought I would come to the (United States) to play. But I knew there were a lot of players coming here and I knew that they were progressing very well. There are a lot of Argentinians who have come here and done well. Seeing them, you realize that this is a really good league, a really good opportunity, and a chance to grow. When I talked with the technical staff and this opportunity came up, I didn't give it a second thought.”
Maidana becomes the second Argentinian to play for Philadelphia. Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet played briefly for the club in 2010, making nine appearances for the Union during its inaugural campaign.
Argentinian players are a hot commodity in North America these days.
Following the success of experienced veterans like Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Claudio Lopez, MLS clubs have done well in attracting younger players from Argentina. The new wave of Argentinian talent includes Diego Valeri, Federico Higuain, Maxi Urruti, and Matias Laba.
The point? Major League Soccer has become a viable destination for many players from Argentina who are still in the prime of their careers.
“I didn't speak with anyone specifically, but I knew about them, Diego Valeri and Federico Higuain for example, and some of the other guys,” Maidana explained. “I did speak a lot with my teammates in Argentina. They all thought it was a really good league, and when the opportunity came up, they all supported the move. The league is going to continue to grow, maybe in a year or two it will be one of the better leagues in the world. I'm hoping we can get the most out of this season and give Philadelphia a really good year.”
What do you think of Maidana joining the Union corps? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org