CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA acquired Leandro Barrera before the season with tempered expectations given his youth and unfamiliarity with Major League Soccer. But his output through two weeks suggests they might have landed another Argentine difference-maker.
Barrera, 23, had an assist in their season-opening win over the Chicago Fire and two shots on goal a week later in a 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps, giving the Rojiblancos an unexpected complement to midfielder Mauro Rosales on the opposite wing.
“We knew he had talent,” Chivas USA assistant coach Paul Caffrey told MLSsoccer.com ahead of Saturday’s game at FC Dallas (8:30 pm ET; MLS Live). “There was a little bit of an unknown aspect to how he would adjust to the league and how quick he would get up to speed, but we can already see he’s started to learn how physical it is.”
The presence of countrymen Rosales and Agustín Pelletieri has allowed Barrera to quickly adjust to the lineup.
“It has helped a lot,” Barrera told MLSsoccer.com. “Knowing they were over here, it made the adjustment easier. Mauro and Agustín have treated me well since I arrived. That has helped me fit in here. They were very important.”
Barrera, who is on loan from Buenos Aires-based Argentinos Juniors, where he spent six seasons, also had productive conversations with Vancouver Whitecaps defender Matías Laba, another fellow countryman, about joining MLS.
“He told me the league was great and I would like it, especially the city I would be in, which is one of the best,” Barrera said. “That conversation helped me tremendously to make the decision. I’m out here confirming what he was telling me.”
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Caffrey praised Barrera’s ability to pick up the club’s tactics without much trouble. The left-footed winger has been asked to secure the ball but also help recover possession at midfield.
“He brings youth and speed,” Rosales told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s showing that he’ll do well in this league. He’s had chances to contribute and works in a way that suggests he’s played many games. He puts pressure on himself to get better; those are the players this team needs.”
It’s still early, but Chivas USA might have found yet another important piece in their quest to reach the postseason.
“I thought it was going to take me a little while longer to adapt,” Barrera said. “This is a very dynamic style of soccer; very fast. I was surprised to have an assist and also have opportunities to score. I think I’m doing well, but I can improve in a lot of areas.
"I like this league and [will] hopefully stay here for two or three years.”