Not long ago, Roberto Mina stepped off the plane into a foreign country, looking to further his career by working his way into Major League Soccer and FC Dallas.
In just a short time, he's done just that, earning a regular place in Colin Clarke's side while creating nightmares for defending teams in the process.
"Mina's a different breed -- he has played in Argentina before," said FCD defender Chris Gbandi. "He is very skillful and deceptive. He doesn't look that fast but he is and also very valuable to us."
Just 21 years old (he won't turn 22 until the week before the MLS Cup Final), Mina wouldn't seem a grizzled veteran who could easily make his mark in a different country. But he was a regular as a youth international at every step in his native Ecuador, playing at the under-15, U-17 and U-20 levels. He played for Ecuador in the FIFA World Youth Championship in 2001 in Argentina, where he was the youngest player in the event.
He made his full international debut in 2002, winning two caps for Ecuador. That same year he made his move in Ecuador's Primera Division, playing for Emelec before being transferred to Huracan in Argentina's second division later that season. In 2004, he returned to his homeland with Emelec before moving to El Nacional, featuring in 20 matches and scoring one goal.
It was about that time in which Clarke had interest in the youngster.
"Roberto was down in Argentina last year and was in touch with a company down there that had a lot of players on the books and they showed me Roberto on tape. I liked what I saw and it sort of went from there," said the coach.
Since coming on board Mina has made the best of his opportunities, playing in 11 games and starting nine. He scored a goal in his second MLS game (May 22 vs. Los Angeles), and now has three goals and one assist on the season, mainly in the absence of U.S. national team and FCD forward Eddie Johnson.
"He's done great, scored some very important goals for us," said Clarke. "He has been a big plus to us. We are glad to have him -- I think things will only get better as the season goes on."
While there are always difficulties in coming to a new team and a new system, Mina is also trying to learn English. There are a few native Spanish speakers on the FC Dallas squad, but he's doing all he can to fit in with the entire team.
"Obviously its a tough situation for him, since he doesn't speak English very well, we all try to help him out," said FCD midfielder Aaron Pitchkolan. "He has stepped in and did a great job, he's a great player and has fit in with no problem."
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.