HOUSTON – Raul Rodriguez is stepping out of his comfort zone for the first time in his professional career.
With his four-and-a-half year stint at Espanyol coming to an end, as well as an entire career in his native Spain, the 27-year-old center back decided to make a major shift by signing with the Houston Dynamo. And he admitted Monday that there will be a lot to get used to, from the style of play to a new league and expectations.
“Personally, I have to find a balance before and what I have to do here because it’s a different type of philosophy,” Rodriguez told MLSsoccer.com. “Here in Houston, the type of project the club’s trying to build up is this idea about soccer and the way to have the ball, but of course I’m a defender and we have to do our work. When we are attacking, we have to help and try and not lose the ball.
“I cannot bring something in mind that I can’t use here. I have to have some balance and decide what I can bring here and how can I adapt to the philosophy.”
Rodriguez’s new boss, Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle, has praised his style, lauding his experience, ability to organize and technical skills. Still, a defender’s main job is to keep the other team off the board, and in Houston he’ll be judged on that first.
It’s a challenge that Rodriguez seemed to be seeking out when he decided to make a life-changing move.
He had options in Europe. But after talking with Dynamo general manager Matt Jordan, Rodriguez found the prospect of a new challenge intriguing.
“I was in Spain five or six years, and I felt a change would be better for me,” Rodriguez said. “New players, a different league and a different space and a new atmosphere. For me it was a chance to stay in another country, another culture. For me it was a very good moment in my life.”
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Rodriguez will certainly be looked at as a major upgrade for a defense that had a slew of questions to answer after a dismal 2014 season. Having him with the team for almost the entire preseason after working through the transfer process that kept him out for the first two days of camp is a good sign, Coyle said. The next step will be getting him acclimated with the group as the only new defensive signing.
“The sooner you get players into your training camp the better,” Coyle told MLSsoccer.com. “If we can integrate him into the group with a decent period of time it helps him. He’s a good talker and organizer and he passes well and knows where the danger is. To get him into the group is a big boost for us all.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.