CARSON, Calif. — Cristian Pavon has made an immediate impact for the LA Galaxy on the field, adding a dimension to the club's attack, bringing out the best in Favio Alvarez, and providing Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a partner adept at creating opportunities to finish.
That his adjustment to the Galaxy and Major League Soccer have been relatively simple could have something to do with his comfort off the field. Los Angeles is very different from Buenos Aires, where Pavon spent nearly five years with Boca Juniors, and more so from Cordoba, his hometown, but he's got what he most needs to feel right at home.
Pavon, a 23-year-old attacker acquired on loan from Boca at the close of the summer transfer window, didn't set off on this adventure alone. His mother, little sister, one of his four brothers, and a close friend have joined him in Southern California, where they live a half-block from the ocean in Redondo Beach.
“The reason my family's here is they've always been with me, since I was little,” Pavon told MLSsoccer.com in Spanish on Thursday. “They've always gone with me wherever I've gone, since I was little. That's why they're here. I'd rather have them here than being alone and being sad because they aren't and missing them.”
Pavon's father, Walter, will join the group next week and stick around for a month before returning to Argentina. He runs his son's soccer complex in Cordoba.
“It's really nice to have that support,” said Pavon, who got his start at Talleres de Cordoba before moving to Boca in 2014. “They've always supported me since I started playing, when I was 4.”
He's got a lot of support within the club, too. Guillermo Barros Schelotto has played a pivotal role in his career, giving him a starting job at Boca that paved his path to Argentina's national team and last year's World Cup, and LA's first-year head coach worked diligently over several months to bring him to the Galaxy.
“When I was at Boca, before [Schelotto] came, I didn't have playing time,” said Pavon, who netted his first MLS goal and picked up his second assist in four games in Sunday's 3-3 draw at LAFC. “And when he got there, since the first day he got there, he gave me a lot of confidence and, more than anything, playing minutes. I played more than 60 games when he was there with me, and that's what took me to the national team and [enabled me] to play in the World Cup.
“I'm always going to be thankful to him for that, and now that I'm here, I'm also thankful that he brought me here.”
Alvarez, 26, who joined the Galaxy in May, has been a close friend since Pavon joined him at Talleres in 2013, and he's become friends with defender Diego Polenta, an Uruguayan in his first season with LA. Alvarez told him about the club, the league and what it's like in Southern California while negotiations to bring him to MLS were ongoing.
“Favio told me a lot about this city, and I was eager to come here,” Pavon said. “It's a very calm city, like he said. You live a lot differently than you do in Argentina.
“More than anything, you can go out anywhere here without having to worry. In Argentina, there's a lot of insecurity, so you can't [do that]. There's some neighborhoods [in Buenos Aires] you can't go into, and there are others that are fine. Here in Los Angeles, you live very calmly.”
He says he's “gone out to eat a few times with Favio, as well as with Diego,” and he likes the cuisine.
“You eat very healthy here. You eat good food here,” he said. “And you take care of yourself more here. In Argentina, you eat a lot of meats and barbecues.”
Satisfaction with his home life has made fitting in on the field simpler. He's become the primary engine in LA's attack, and Ibrahimovic has said he's “too good for MLS.”
“I play with many players, and I see when a player is the difference,” Ibrahimovic said earlier this month. “He is the difference.”
Pavon says he and Alvarez “have always clicked and always connected,” and “with Zlatan, if he's in the box, you just have to assist, because any ball he gets in there, he'll likely score.”
Pavon was surprised how quickly he acclimated.
“I had heard it would take me time to adapt, and I tried to do my best and to give it my best and to leave my all on the field,” he said. “Luckily, I've had good games. I think you do that with hard work.”
He thinks MLS suits his game.
“They let you play here,” he said. “When I get a ball, they let me turn and then just go 1-on-1, which is one of my fortés, to go 1-on-1 and have speed. In Argentina, if I got a ball, I wasn't able to turn, because they would be on you, pressuring.
“They let me play my game here.”