COMMERCE CITY, Colo – Forgive Germán Mera if he’s a little jet-lagged.
The Colorado Rapids’ newest defender arrived in Denver at 9:30 on Wednesday morning, and just more than an hour later, the Colombian center back was lightly jogging on the practice fields in a country he’d just set foot in for the first time in his life.
“I’m a little tired,” Mera told MLSsoccer.com after practice on Wednesday.
But even though the country, team, language (he doesn’t speak English) and league might all be new to the 23-year-old transfer-deadline loan acquisition from Colombian club Deportivo Cali, Mera says he’s already enjoying his new surroundings and looking forward to competing not only for a starting spot, but for his longer-term career ambitions.
“More than anything, I wanted a breath of fresh air, a new perspective,” the Cali-born center back said of his decision to come to the Rapids. “[MLS is] a league with a lot of strength, and I want to take advantage of it. And if I stay calm I can move on to Europe.”
Mera won’t have long to fit into new head coach Oscar Pareja’s plans. With starting center back Shane O’Neill set to leave for the US Under-20 national team squad early next month as they begin preparations for the U-20 World Cup in Turkey this summer, Mera could quickly be in the mix for a starting role along Colorado’s backline.
“I’m going to see him [Thursday] with the boys and in training and I think it’s going to be a very short time [to] when we can count on Germán to play,” Pareja said on Wednesday. “Everything is in line and he is fit, and if he adjusts quickly, we can use him. Sometimes, it requires just one game for the players to gel in the team.”
The Rapids acquired Mera just before the close of the transfer window earlier this month, partially due to starting center back Diego Calderón’s long-term knee injury, which will likely leave the Ecuadorian sidelined through the majority of the summer. Additionally, O’Neill’s expected departure will leave Colorado thin at center back for the heart of the season.
But before worrying about his new role in the Rapids defense, Mera needs 12 hours or so of sleep. After that, it will be go-time for the ambitious 6-foot-1 center back, who Pareja hopes will bolster one of the league’s stingiest defenses to date (11 goals allowed in 12 games).
“I feel like we’re deeper in that [center back] position now with Shane and Marvell [Wynne] and Drew [Moor] and German,” Pareja said of Mera, who can also play at left back if needed. “We now have options there.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.