After arriving from Swedish side Malmo FF last summer, Yoshimar Yotun has emerged as one of Orlando City SC’s most important players this season.
The central midfielder from Peru, however, faces what he thinks is the most important year of his life, on and off the pitch.
Yotun will more than likely feature for the Peruvian national team in this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, and he’s also looking to lead the Lions to their first-ever MLS Cup Playoffs appearance.
MLSsoccer.com sat down with Yotun to talk about his life and career and what’s to come on the road ahead.
Here are 10 things you may not know about Yoshi Yotun.
1. World Cup bound
Peru wasn’t supposed to be the last team to qualify to the World Cup, says Yotun.
But that was the case in November 2017, when the Blanquirroja topped New Zealand 2-0 on aggregate to clinch the last World Cup berth in home soil.
“It was a very special night, it was a game many players wanted to play in because we entered the match with the weight of our country on our shoulders,” said Yotun. “Having not qualified to the World Cup in 36 years, and to play a play-off to clinch the last spot for the tournament, it wasn’t what we wanted, there was so much adversity, but we worked through it and made it a special night.”
Peru are in Group C at Russia 2018 with France, Australia and Denmark.
2. Incoming baby
On the pitch this summer, Yotun will be looking to help Peru go far in the World Cup. Off the pitch, however, he and his wife Alessandra are expecting a baby boy in June and they couldn’t be happier.
“It’s a special time for me and my family,” said Yotun. “This year is starting to become a good year for me personally for three main motives: I’m going to the World Cup, the birth of my son and the goal of helping put Orlando in the playoffs with a new group.”
Yotun said he won’t be there for the birth of his son since he’ll be playing in Russia, but his wife understands that soccer sometimes takes you away from your family.
3. He married his high-school sweetheart
Orlando City’s metronome is much more than a talisman. He’s a family man.
Yotun met Alessandra when he was 15 years old and the two have traveled different parts of the world together.
“We met at a young age and since then she’s been part of this crazy, but great adventure that taken us to live in places like Brazil and Sweden and now here in Orlando,” said Yotun. “She’s always by my side, we have a great relationship that’s seen us be blessed with two children.”
4. Respecting the legends
Yotun lists the still-active Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro, left, among his childhood idols | Reuters
When asked who his favorite players were growing up, Yotun didn’t hesitate in paying respect to some Peruvian national team legends, as well as Brazilian great Ronaldinho.
“I grew up in a great soccer era with Claudio Pizzaro being an integral figure for the national team, but had the opportunity to play against the phenomenon Ronaldo toward his last days, so I’m glad I had the fortune to play against some great players,” said Yotun.
5. He enjoys his Peruvian dishes
Yotun is no stranger to the Peruvian food scene in Central Florida, occasionally visiting South American restaurants with his family on his off days.
When asked what his favorite homeland dish is, Yotun answered cau cau, which is a traditional tripe stew usually served with rice and strips of tripe and garnished with onions, chilis and potato chunks.
But another dish Yotun sometimes enjoys eating is the traditional lomo saltado, steak with onions, tomatoes and French fries sautéed and served on top of a bed of white rice.
6. He dreams big
Yotun doesn’t know what the future holds for him. He’s contracted to be at Orlando City until the end of 2018, but if there’s one team he dreams of playing for, it’s the 12-time European champions Real Madrid.
“I’ve accomplished all of my dreams, playing in the UEFA Champions League, Copa Libertadores and now playing in the FIFA World Cup,” said Yotun. “But one my dreams, and only God knows, I’m a huge fan of Real Madrid and I would like to put on one day that white jersey. These are only dreams, but dreams can be turned into reality and we will see what happens.”
Yotun will have a chance to showcase his talent in this summer’s World Cup with Peru, a stage that’s usually seen underrated talents make a name for themselves.
7. Enjoying seeing MLS grow
Yotun is hoisted up by teammate Dom Dwyer after scoring his first MLS goal last September. Yotun calls his move to MLS "the best decision I've made." | USA Today Images
Ask many South American players in Major League Soccer, and they would more than likely tell you the league is growing fast. Yotun agrees and calls it the best decision he’s made in his career.
“I’ve been following MLS since I was playing in Sweden, and I knew it was a league that was growing at a rapid rate,” said Yotun. “The level now is very good with a lot of competitive teams – Toronto FC for example made it far in the Concacaf Champions League, and with the continuity of increased competition, it’s the best decision I’ve made.”
Asked about his closest friends in the squad, Yotun didn’t want to single out any of his teammates at Orlando City.
The midfielder says he talks to all of his fellow Lions, but sometimes enjoys hanging out with his fellow Latino players like Cristian Higuita, Jose Villarreal and Pierre Da Silva.
9. Still getting a hold of English
Yotun credits his two years in Sweden for helping him English. He’s still learning in the United States, he says, but understands the commonalities of the language, and also credited his English-speaking teammates on helping him speak and understand the language.
10. He likes his naps
When Yotun was asked if he follows or plays any other sports, he jokingly responded: “Is taking naps considered a sport?
“I don’t watch or practice any other sports,” Yotun continued. “On my days off, I try to rest. To be honest, I have the perfect family because they enjoy taking naps as much as I do, so usually in the afternoon I have a siesta for one or two hours with my family and in the afternoon. … then when I wake up, I fulfill my job as a father.”