Newly signed Minnesota United midfielder Thomas Chacon celebrated his 19th birthday Saturday with an 18-hour journey from Uruguay that ended with his arrival Sunday morning at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Or rather, his journey is just beginning in a new country and new league he has joined sight unseen.
“Very happy, but also very anxious,” he said in Spanish through an interpreter. “I’m very excited I got to spend my birthday traveling here. I’m looking forward to being with the team.”
He arrived with his agent, two large suitcases and a loaded backpack after he reached agreement on a Young Designated Player contract with United earlier this month. He completed his U.S. immigration paperwork in Uruguay on Friday before he boarded a flight in Montevideo on Saturday with a stop in Miami to change planes. He was greeted by about a dozen Loons fans — some wearing scarves on a summer’s day — as he came to baggage claim.
He is United’s play for the future; another young South American joining a league and trend who considers MLS a viable place to develop his career before European teams come calling.
“It’s a big change,” Chacon said. “Leaving the country where you’re from is always a big change. I hope to adapt quickly and just come here and play soccer.”
He left a Danubio team for which he played in Uruguay’s first division since he was 16 and traveled north, just as a growing number of South Americans ages 22 and younger have in recent years. His club team alone has produced more than its share of international star players, including 2010 World Cup Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan and striker Edinson Cavani.
When asked about the first-division Uruguayan league from which he comes, Chacon called it very “competitive,” “difficult” and “physical.”
He posted a thankful farewell message in Spanish on his Instagram account Friday afternoon, calling his years playing professionally at home “all very nice, but also very fast. I wanted more, but there will be time to achieve it.”
That time started Sunday with his arrival. He’ll undergo a physical examination and complete other bookkeeping before he practices with his new team this week before Thursday’s game at Sporting Kansas City.
He said he chose Minnesota and MLS as his career’s next stage “because I thought it was a really great project and a team playing really, really well that’s a really good team. I think it’s going to turn out really well for all of us. … The league is growing and becoming very competitive, giving more chances to young internationals in an effort to grow the league more. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity.”
Chacon describes himself as “very fast” and “someone who takes charge of the attack” and can score as well.
Chacon stands only 5-5, but his agent describes his game as “furia Charrua,” the fury of seminomadic indigenous people who hunted and gathered across what is present-day Uruguay and parts of Argentina and Brazil once upon a time.
Asked if he is a descendant of those people, Chacon smiled and said, “No, no, that’s just a saying.”
Praise from Heath
United coach Adrian Heath praised his team after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Orlando for excelling all over the field except for its final third, where goals are created and finished. His team outshot Orlando 22-5 and 26-6 (including 16 in the second half alone) in open-play crossing passes and yet needed first-half sub Abu Danladi’s opportunistic goal in the 92nd minute to salvage a tie.