Efrain Juarez - Monterrey
Courtesy of CF Monterrey

Shot to play favored position excites new Vancouver Whitecap Efrain Juarez

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Efrain Juarez's pro career spans more than ten years and traverses two continents.

It's seen him win championships, cups, play in the Champions League, win two Gold Cups and represent Mexico at the 2010 World Cup. His latest landing spot has brought him to Vancouver.

Juarez joined the Whitecaps last week in a move from Liga MX side Monterrey. At 29-years-old, he's still got a lot left in his tank, so what's brought Juarez to Major League Soccer at this stage of his career?

The answer is a simple one.

"I've been involved in lots of competitions in Europe, in Mexico, now for me it's a new challenge," Juarez told reporters at the first day of the Whitecaps preseason training camp on Monday. "I had a chat with [head coach] Carl [Robinson] and he explained what he needs from me. He explained to me about the club, about the city. It's a club with very high ambitions, so this challenge and everything interested me."

For a club that's lost a lot of veteran presence from their locker room this offseason, including David Ousted, Christian Bolaños and Andrew Jacobson, the addition of a player of Juarez's experience was the perfect addition for Robinson, both on and off the pitch.

"He pretty flexible," Robinson said of what Juarez will bring to the 'Caps. "He likes to get around the pitch and get on the ball. He's got a great pedigree and he's a leader. Character-wise, he's as good as you're going to find. He's very professional in everything he does."

A key selling point in tempting the Mexican to Vancouver was Robinson's desire to play Juarez in his favored position at holding midfield.

Having been on most people's radar in Mexico these past five years as a right back, it's a decision that has left some pundits puzzled, and left a few wondering why the Whitecaps want to make such a switch.

The reality is, however, that it's a position in which Juarez is very comfortable in and has previously excelled.

"Yeah, it's one of the things [why] I came here," Juárez confirmed. "That's one of the positions that I enjoy really. I used to play right back, but in a lot of games too I played midfield. I went to Celtic as a midfielder. I played in the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 in midfield. It's not a position that I don't know. I really know. At the end, it's football. The ball is round, whether here, Mexico, or China."

So just what kind of midfielder will the Whitecaps be getting with Juarez?

"I'm box-to-box," he said. "I have feet. I can run all day, all night. For me, being box-to-box will be so nice or wherever the manager need. I'm really excited and happy to be here. To put all my experience at the service of the team."

Juarez can't wait to get started in his new surroundings, having followed the progress of MLS for years thanks to former teammates coming to play in the league. Now, he's excited to be part of it himself.

"Everyone is talking about what is so, so great with MLS," Juárez said. "It's growing a lot. The league, there's nothing I can say, it's really what you can see. I came here to try and put all my effort and try and do important things with this club."