FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The past four years took Juan Toja to the heights of the UEFA Champions League and the unknown lands of Greece and Romania.
As he explored foreign countries and tested his professional limits, Toja kept an eye on the competition he left behind in MLS. He caught a few games and monitored the comings and goings. It wasn't in his job description with recent employers Aris or Steaua Bucureşti, but he did it anyways.
His decision to re-sign with MLS this summer may just transform his curiosity into necessary working knowledge. Toja hopes his interest in his former league will pay off in a big way as he settles into his second MLS act with New England.
“I already know the league, the players and most of the people,” Toja told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday after practicing with his Revolution teammates for the first time on Monday. “I have been checking the league since I left. I know it has changed a lot in the two, three, four years since I left. I must get used to it again. I think it's better for me to be here than any other place and any other country.”
WATCH: Toja returns to MLS
Toja probably could have located an alternative or two as he assessed his options this summer. He selected the security of MLS after suffering through economic uncertainty in Greece for the past two seasons.
He didn't directly attribute the end of his European excursion to any one factor, but the tenuous state of Aris' finances – most of the club's foreign players, including ex-Chicago forward Nery Castillo, departed during the summer – likely sealed his decision to return to a place he already knew well.
“Some circumstances, some situations [came up] in my life,” Toja said. “I got this chance and I just took it. I thought it was a great chance for me to come back.”
Those circumstances and situations don't matter now. Toja spent his time overseas and took what he could from his time there. Those days, for the moment, are over. A new beginning and a new club in a familiar country await him. It is an experience Toja said he cannot wait to start.
“I'm so happy and excited to be here again,” Toja said. “I'm just wishing the best for me and the team.”