It's really happening: Gareth Bale has officially arrived in MLS.
Despite making his debut on the road, the former Real Madrid and Tottenham superstar was welcomed by a sold-out Nashville crowd and a vocal traveling contingent of LAFC supporters.
Bale was quickly introduced to the unique difficulties of soccer in North America before he entered the match, and he opened up about some of those challenges after the game.
“The humidity was very difficult, even in the warmup,” he said. “It was something that I’m not used to. You don’t really get to see the heat on TV."
Getting used to the oppressive southern heat is one thing, but adapting to a new league and an entirely new set of opponents is a challenge that Bale believes he’s up to.
“I wouldn’t say [the style of play] is different, it’s just getting used to the teams’ philosophies,” he said. “We’re working on it in training every day. I’m watching extra film on it in terms of before and after training with the coaches. It’s just trying to get up to speed as quick as I can and when I go on the field, do as much as I can to help the team.”
Sunday wasn’t Bale’s first experience with MLS. He played against the MLS All-Stars in 2017 with Real Madrid, coming on in the 61st minute and converting a spot kick in a 4-2 penalty shootout win. In the five years since, though, the quality of MLS has improved.
“Just watching, it’s improved massively from when I used to watch it in the past and when I’ve played maybe against an All-Star team,” he noted. “The football is good. I enjoyed being out there.”
With LAFC, who reclaimed the top spot in MLS after their win in Nashville, Bale knows he could find himself in prime position to add more silverware to his already crowded trophy cabinet.
“I’m excited to get my debut out of the way,” he remarked. “I want to try and contribute as much as I can to this team, to try and win games and win trophies.”
It was the first competitive club match for the 33-year-old since April 9, when he subbed on for the final 16 minutes of Real Madrid's LaLiga match vs. Getafe.
However, Bale was vital to the Wales men's national team during the June international window. He helped lead his nation to their first World Cup trip since 1958 with a victory over Ukraine in the final UEFA playoff, earning a Group B spot alongside the US men's national team.