TIGARD, Ore. – Before joining the Portland Timbers over the offseason, David Guzman had only ever played for one club: Costa Rica’s Club Deportivo Saprissa, know to fans and foes alike as “the Purple Monster.”
Now, just 10 games into the 2017 season, the 26-year-old midfielder has made the Timbers’ No. 6 spot his own, setting up shop in front of Portland’s back line where he has proven to be an effective defender and a key link in the team’s transition into the attack.
However, while Guzman has made an immediate impact with the Timbers, there are still adjustments to be made to playing in Major League Soccer. Differences in altitude, temperature, and surface are common in MLS at a level that simply does not exist in Costa Rica.
But where some might see problems, Guzman sees opportunities.
“The travel has been a little bit hard to get used to, but at the same time it is a beautiful opportunity because you get to learn something new,” Guzman said through a translator after training on Thursday. “Over there you have to travel by bus, but here you do it by plane; there are longer trips and that affects how you play the game. But at the same time, the fields are in really great shape and that also helps you grow as a soccer player.”
Guzman is no stranger to showing well on the road, catching the eye of Timbers’ head coach Caleb Porter when the Timbers played Saprissa in the group stage of the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League.
“In the second leg here [at Providence Park] I don’t think he made a wrong step,” Porter said. “He was one of the best players on the field and he was just really sharp in possession and smart positionally.”
Coming into the match, Guzman recognized what he called a “beautiful opportunity” before him.
“Every time that you have an opportunity to play against an international team you think about the possibility of some doors opening up,” said Guzman, “and when we played the Timbers that is what I was thinking. When we came here I thought this might be a good opportunity to show myself as a player.”
Guzman was one of many Costa Rican players who joined MLS over the offseason – a group including his former teammate with Saprissa and current teammate with the Timbers, Roy Miller – and he says that the strength and parity of the league were a big draw to him.
“[MLS] is a very competitive league and I think that so far that is what I have liked about this," he said. "I think that is what is going to bring more Costa Rican players here; they have seen the level of play, the competitiveness, so I am sure that there will be more coming in the next few years.”