Leonel Miranda flew into Houston this week with a firm target in mind.
“I’ve come to win. That’s what I like to do. I don’t want to lose. My vision for the MLS season is to raise that trophy,” the winger told HoustonDynamo.com on Wednesday after his first full training session since he joined on a season-long loan from Argentinian giants Independiente.
The Buenos Aires-born winger has already racked up an impressive number of appearances for his hometown club and is confident he has joined a team and a league that will help him develop and match his ambition.
“I’m here to fit in and try to make an impact,” he said through a translator. “It’s a very good league. In Argentina that’s what’s talked about. It’s up and coming, they’ve done a lot in a short space of time and that’s important. It’s also important to know that other players who are world-renowned, like Robbie Keane, are coming into the league—not necessarily at the end of their career. They’ve come in and made an impact. So MLS is definitely a force to be reckoned with.”
Small and speedy, Miranda is a versatile, attack-minded player with an eye for goal. “I like to be offensive, I like to move around the field a lot and make an impact. Those are the three things that I really look forward to. Hopefully fans in Houston will be able to appreciate the style of play that I put on the field, and hopefully I’m able to score goals,” he said.
Miranda joins a roster with a growing number of native Spanish speakers, including Boniek García, Alex López, Luis Garrido and new signing Raúl Rodríguez. “It was a huge help during the first day to have players such as Boniek, Alex and Luis help me learn the ropes and see how things are done. But I also know with the passage of time I’ll be able to pick up more English and be able to adjust better,” he said.
“I’m very happy with everything overall. I have seen the city a little bit, it’s a very nice city. Overall the facilities are great, the training pitch is top notch. Just happy to be out here and stretch my legs during my first training session.”
Rodríguez said he is excited to start his stint with the Dynamo after spending his entire career in the city of Barcelona, where he was born. The 27-year-old center back, who speaks very good English, arrives with a strong pedigree having made 65 starts and 15 substitute appearances in Spain’s La Liga for Espanyol since 2010. His last match for Espanyol came last month in the Copa Del Rey.
Though he’s visited a couple of U.S. cities before, Rodríguez had never been to Houston until he landed late on Tuesday. But he’s ready to embrace life in a new league on a new continent. “There’s one thing that doesn’t change—soccer. It’s a universal language. It’s true I had some options in Europe, in Spain, but we thought, me and my wife, that this could be very different. That’s what we were looking for—and this moment in MLS, there’s a lot of things they’re putting together, it seems like a very good moment and opportunity for us,” he told HoustonDynamo.com.
“The way they’re trying to play here is very similar to the kind of soccer we played in Barcelona. A lot of combinations, passing, it’s the kind of soccer I like when I watch it and when I play it.”
Rodríguez was scouted by new Dynamo vice president/general manager Matt Jordan, who visited him in Barcelona and convinced him a move to Houston was the right choice.
“I explained to him what I was looking for and he explained why he had confidence in me, and here we are. It was very easy since the beginning,” said Rodríguez. “The project is very ambitious and you can see it because I’m here, there are a lot of new people here this year, they are trying to create something different and I’m happy to be part of it.”
Of course, Rodríguez has not yet had time to explore the city, but one of Houston’s biggest assets has already made an impact on him: friendly people. “We arrived yesterday at 11 p.m. after a lot of hours of trip and went to the hotel. This morning, the first impression was the people. Teammates, people who work for the club, are very welcoming. A lot of laughs, very easy, very normal. When you arrive at a place for the first time you’re afraid of what you might find there, but everything was so easy and I appreciate it,” he said.
Head coach Owen Coyle said he is delighted the club have landed players of the caliber of Miranda and Rodríguez. He remembers the defender from a few years back when he was linked within a move to Coyle’s native Scotland.
“Raúl’s a player I know from Espanyol and three years ago Glasgow Rangers tried to sign him, so I certainly knew him from that time,” Coyle told HoustonDynamo.com. “He has that La Liga pedigree, he’s played against some of the best attackers in the world, he has terrific English and he’s a leader. He speaks, he’ll organize, and that’s great for us.
“First and foremost, he has natural ability, he’s played at a very high level and he comes here hungry for success.”
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.