ZAPOPAN, Jalisco, Mexico - My first week here in Guadalajara with my new Chivas USA teammates has been great. One of the most enjoyable things has been all the different conversations - or lack thereof - with Chivas fans and members of the local media. It's funny, because plenty of folks show interest in talking to you, and even though my Spanish is still a bit rusty, people still seem to be interested what I have to say.
I certainly felt some nerves on the first day of training. It was different, showing up at "Verde Valle," Chivas' training center here, and knowing that the practice would be done entirely in Spanish. When we arrived in the locker rooms, our Mexican teammates were there to meet us, along with [Chivas' Executive President] Ivar Sisniega and [Director of Football] Hans Westerhoff. The locker room's got life-sized pictures of every Chivas player inside the lockers. Ivar addressed us in both us in Spanish and English, and talked about how important it was for the Mexican guys to learn English, as for us to learn Spanish. It was comforting to be reminded that the language-learning process goes both ways.
There's a lot of buzz around practice - our goal is to sustain that for the next week and throughout the entire season. Thomas is really enthusiastic; throughout training he really keeps the energy up. Both he and Hans come out and train with us - they really get involved, and that's great to see.
The vibe has also been good among those of us who came here from MLS. You can tell the Spanish-speaking guys love it - they have that certain buzz about them, and you get the sense that it's different for them compared to playing on other MLS teams. They really enjoy training sessions run in Spanish and the Mexican style of soccer. I imagine that's the style they've all tried to play for a while, growing up watching Mexican soccer and playing in Mexican-American leagues in California. I'm sure if any Mexican-American player had a chance in MLS, Chivas USA is the place he'd want to play.
And for me it's a great experience, too. For one, it's great to see how another part of the world plays soccer. During most preseason trips - to Portugal, for example, where we went last year with Kansas City - you play within your own team and don't get much of a sense of the place you're visiting. Here, we get to come to Mexico and play a Mexican style of soccer in a Mexican training setting. And that's been an amazing learning experience.
As for the next week, my first goal - physically - is to make it through the two weeks in one piece! After that, I hope to learn more Spanish, to get to know my teammates, and to get a better feel for how this team is going to play next season.
Wish me luck...
Matt Taylor spent his rookie year in Major League Soccer with 2004 MLS Cup finalist Kansas City Wizards. Born in Columbus, Ohio, the 23-year-old forward grew up in Irvine, California and attended UCLA, where led the Bruins to the 2002 NCAA Division I national championship. Selected with Chivas USA's sixth pick in the 2005 MLS Expansion Draft, Taylor is currently in the middle of a two-week preseason training trip to Guadalajara.