CHARLESTON, S.C. – It's been a stressful couple of weeks for D.C. United left back Cristian Fernández.
Just 20 minutes after taking the pitch in Bradenton, Fla., for his first training session with his new club, Fernández broke his right hand. Surgery followed soon after, as did several re-castings.
"In reality, I’m coming along slowly," Fernández told MLSsoccer.com in a Spanish-language interview on Tuesday morning. "I’m getting used to the team and their style of play. I had the thing with my hand and also some paperwork in Spain, but I’m getting used to it. I’ve been getting used to the cultural differences as well – eating meals at different times and what not. It shouldn’t take too much longer to get accustomed to everything, though."
Fernández, who has been training with a cast and expects it to come off before the team's opener March 8 against the Columbus Crew (7 pm ET; Watch on MLSLive), figures to be a key piece in a reformed United backline that features no holdovers from 2013's abysmal campaign.
Though a new face to most observers of MLS, the 28-year-old's pedigree speaks for itself: five years of top-flight soccer in Spain with La Liga side Racing Santander and a handful of other stints with Spanish second-division clubs.
After falling out of favor last year at Almería, when the team earned promotion to the first division, Fernández assessed his options.
"It appealed to me to go overseas," Fernández said, noting that he'd never played at any level outside of Spain. "Obviously, England and Germany were also on my radar, but the US really appealed to me as well. I had a lot of decent offers, but I wanted to come here. D.C. United certainly went after me."
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Finally settled in, Fernández sees potential in his new club.
"This is a very young team,” he said. “I think we’ve got to jell and come together, with so many new pieces. On the surface, the turnover makes it a bit harder for the club to look connected, to look in sync. But I think we have a very strong base here for sure."
He also had quite a bit to say when asked for his thoughts on the league in general.
"This is an up-and-coming league," Fernández said. "And that’s very attractive to players in Europe. It’s still not quite what a European league is, obviously, but that’s mostly a time thing – European leagues have a lot more history.
"I get the impression that MLS aims to be one of the major sports in this country, considered alongside baseball, the NFL and all of that. I think the league has a ton of economic and sporting potential, honestly."