In 2006, the Columbus Crew has become the reference point in MLS for Chileans of all walks. Last year, Chilean club side Universidad Catolica played Columbus at Crew Stadium while on tour, and Eduardo Carvacho was a part of the technical staff.
This year, in addition to maintaining Carvacho as goalkeeper coach, the Crew are counting on a pair of Chilean internationals in Marcos González and Sebastián Rozental, both well-known for their efforts with Chile's national selection.
The two players have been with the Crew since the start of preseason training in the first week in February and little by little have become more comfortable with the team.
"Sebastian and Marcos are experienced players who don't only understand soccer, but also bring a different sort of style and their experiences from having played in other leagues around the world," Carvacho said. "They have integrated with the group very well and that's important. Marcos knows less English, yet he has learned in an incredible fashion - it's been just a few days and he already communicates well enough, either with the coaching staff or the players, something that is also always very important."
For Rozental, the language barrier isn't as inconvenient as he played for a number of seasons with Rangers FC in Glasgow, Scotland. The midfielder, who has risen up through the ranks of the Chilean national teams at every level, youth and senior, has also played for Grasshopper FC of Zurich, Switzerland; Independiente of Avellaneda in Argentina, in addition to having played for Colo Colo and Universidad Catolica, two of the biggest clubs in Chile.
"This is a great opportunity for me. I've had the opportunity to come to MLS for a couple of years, but now was the right time," Rozental said of his signing with the club in January.
According to Carvacho, the interaction between the Chilean players and the remainder of the squad has been in total harmony.
"They feel comfortable with them and are always available for the younger players, who they are always looking out for," Carvacho said. "It's a good mix, and we're very pleased at the moment."
Gonzalez said he has felt at ease over his first weeks with the team. "The fellows have received me very well and I'm learning the language, which I didn't know. At the moment everything is very comfortable, the people have been nice and I'm very happy to be here."
Motivated by the recent results in international competition by the U.S. national teams, Gonzalez found in MLS a good place to play his soccer. The first weeks with the Crew have given him a notion as to the style of play he'll see in the league.
"There are good players, a lot of young players who are in very good condition. Evidently it's a more physical soccer that is played in South America," Gonzalez said. "They also run hard here, but more depends on the ability with the ball."
The former Colon (Argentina) and Palestino (Chile) player has already slotted into his usual left-sided marking role in the heart of the Crew backline for head coach Sigi Schmid.
"We'll see what he thinks what the coach will do once he's seen the preseason games and how he thinks he put out the team on the field," Gonzalez said. "It's a pleasure to be here and I hope to perform as the people expect."
Juan Mesa is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.