Raul Rodriguez made the bold step of cutting short his dream of succeeding with boyhood club Espanyol for a shot at redemption in the United States, a destination which is quickly becoming a haven for Spaniards looking to try their luck elsewhere. He kindly provided Football Espana with an exclusive interview after his team Houston Dynamo suffered a 1-0 defeat to Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.
“After living and playing all my life in Barcelona, last year was a difficult and important change,” he told our reporter Javier J Hernandez about his difficult adaptation to life in Houston and MLS.
“But I feel a lot better this year. After a while, you start adapting yourself to the culture, city, language and football as MLS is a very different League too.
Rodriguez, who “feels more settled this year”, in his second season with the club, says “coming here was an adventure” and is happy to carry on. The 28-year-old has also been boosted by the arrivals of two fellow countrymen in Agustin Garcia and David Rocha, and he gave one example which, for him, symbolised the cultural difference between his hometown and Houston.
“For me and my wife, we’d always lived in Barcelona, a city in which you can walk everywhere and where there’s a lot of life on the streets. Houston was very different as it doesn’t have something like that.
“Mostly due to the hot weather, you don’t get to walk around in Houston and get to know the city that way. Instead you spend a lot more time at home or you have to drive around everywhere.” But now he is starting “to discover more places and enjoy the city”.
Despite being far away from Spain, Raul still keeps an eye on La Liga and his beloved Espanyol. “I still follow them, I still have great friends there whom I keep in touch with,” he assures.
“I have great affection for the club and stay up-to-date. They’re a humble but proud team, and the last few years have been difficult, starting with high hopes and ending up with a strong effort just to be comfortable in the table. This season doesn’t seem to be any different.”
Nonetheless, he is confident that his former team will avoid relegation as he sent “all his affection and positive energies” to the club and his ex-teammates.
Despite the fact there are only seven Spaniards in MLS right now, Raul believes “in time, I have the feeling that we will see more Spanish faces here”. One of those faces is – of course – David Villa, who came to visit Raul in the dressing room after a preseason match last year.
“I was very surprised that a guy who has been world champion and is such a great player came to the dressing room after the match asking for me,” he recalls.
“We chatted for a while. He’s a great guy, we played against each other in some derbies before, and apart from him being a great footballer, he’s a great person as well. As far as I know, he is happy [in New York].”
Image courtesy houstondynamo.com