TUKWILA, Wash. – Once he had dressed and allowed himself to stop fretting over the result, Gonzalo Pineda gave himself a moment to reflect on his MLS debut.
The former Mexican international had just played 61 minutes off the bench for the Seattle Sounders in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Toronto FC. Pineda considered the injury that kept him out of action for nearly a year and how close he had come to retiring. He thought about his family that urged him to keep going, allowing him to rediscover his love for soccer and how it led to him playing in front of nearly 40,000 supportive fans.
And he cried.
“It was very special to me to get back on the field and play a game again after all the sufferings, all the pain, for me, for my family,” Pineda told reporters in only slightly accented English. “It was hard, but I am very happy to be here, so I am trying just to get better each day and contribute to the team. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
It was only a few months ago that Pineda thought his playing career might be over. A sports hernia had left him unable to train and without a team. He now admits that it was a dark time, that he was depressed and seriously considered calling it a career.
If he had retired, he’d have nothing to be ashamed of. Pineda spent more than a decade in Mexico’s top flight, suiting up for some of the country’s biggest teams. He had been capped 32 times for El Tri, including three appearances in the 2006 World Cup.
But after some consideration, he decided to give it one more shot.
“The time passed and I felt like, ‘Hey, I’m 31, and I want to [get] something more from soccer,’” Pineda said. “I wanted to be a champion again. I wanted to be on the field again. So that’s what I’m trying to do, you know? Enjoy every day. And then when I came to the Sounders, it was like a very new experience. It was like my first time in soccer. So I’m trying to enjoy every single day in here.”
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What role Pineda will play from here on out is still unknown. But after looking very much in his element alongside Osvaldo Alonso, it’s apparent that he still has something to offer, especially if the Sounders stick with the 4-2-3-1 they’ve employed in their first two matches.
“He did well,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said, noting that Pineda probably played about 10 minutes longer than his fitness permitted. “He came on, he gave us what we needed in terms of being able to hold onto possession.”
While thankful to be playing almost anywhere, Pineda said he had always dreamed of playing outside of Mexico. In preparation, he had even essentially taught himself English by reading subtitles on movies and listening to music. Even if MLS wasn’t always his dream destination, he’s clearly pleased to be in Seattle.
“That was amazing,” Pineda said about the atmosphere. “That was just perfect. I have never seen that, because in Mexico, when you lose a game, even with your own crowd, they are always saying ‘Boo! Come on! Why did you lose?’
“After the game, they always supported us. That was very special. That was very good to me. That means that we have a very good crowd, so that makes me feel more – I don’t know how to say in English – that I have to do my best for this crowd also.”