MLS brings players in from a variety of backgrounds for a number of reasons. For new Houston Dynamo signing Koke, the American top flight represents a new challenge and the chance to get in on the ground floor of what he feels is a league headed in the right direction.
The 28-year-old, who celebrated his birthday in his new home on Wednesday, has found success in both Greek league play and European competition – the most recent example was notching a brace against Atlético Madrid in Europa League play this season – but MLS offered a different opportunity for the forward, both on the field and off. The Spaniard comes to the United States looking to be an attacking threat for his new club in what he feels is a burgeoning league on the world stage.
“I was in Aris for five years, and I think for now I want to continue on a new experience,” he told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “I think it was good for me to move to another team to continue my career. I think America is a nice championship to play in.”
Captaining Aris since 2009, Koke wore the coveted No. 10 shirt and took the role of playmaker for the club where he was a fan favorite. He describes himself as a player who is technically sound and has the ability to create for himself and teammates. Those traits will add a new dynamic to a Dynamo forward line that includes Brian Ching, Cam Weaver, and Will Bruin – all considered target forwards.
With Koke’s ability, it’s easy to see why the Dynamo were eager to make the signing before the April transfer deadline. But for Koke – a player with limited exposure to MLS play – Houston’s attacking style provides a good fit.
“I think they are a good team and a good group,” Koke said after his first training on Wednesday. “I was a little bit tired, but the other players took me in, and we’ll get a better feeling once we have more training [sessions].”
His style of play and experience make him a prime candidate to be an impact signing for Houston. For Koke, his ability to make his mark in what he feels is an up-and-coming soccer league on the world stage would justify his decision to move away from a club where he was one of its most popular players.
“The relationship with the Aris fans was great,” he said. “I was the captain and they loved me. It’s difficult to put into words. They understand, I hope, that I needed to take another career path.”
The decision to take that new career path is one that he and his new club are hoping will be a very successful one.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.