Pablo Campos, a veteran forward from Brazil, scored 13 goals for Minnesota United in 2013 before missing much of last season with a knee injury. Campos, 32, is back this season and again is playing a key role for United as it makes a push toward the postseason. He chatted this week with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q You’re one of several natives of Brazil now playing for Minnesota United. Does this almost feel like a second home for you?
A Yeah, for sure. We’ve kind of started this Brazilian community on the team. It’s a great city to live in and raise kids. The infrastructure of the city is very good. People complain about the weather … but it’s great to have them close and to see them adapting a little bit to American culture. It’s awesome. Everybody is liking it.
Q You’ve played a lot off the bench this year, a change for you. How has that role and dynamic suited you?
A Well, for me it was a little bit of an adaptation. I’m not used to coming off the bench because I’ve normally started the games. But I think last year my injury, it slowed me down a little. I needed to gain my space again. Other players came to the team and started playing well. … It’s a little challenging to adapt and reinvent myself. But I’m always going to do whatever it takes to be playing and scoring goals. Nothing has ever fallen from the sky for me in my life. Nothing has been easy, so I’m always hungry to show that I’m capable of playing and being involved in the growth of this team. This is the team I fell in love with, and I’m going to do whatever I can to make it succeed.
Q A big part of the growth of the United franchise involves a transition to Major League Soccer. You played 2009 and 2010 in MLS. How do you compare that league and United’s current league, the North American Soccer League?
A I think MLS has a little advantage because they started a little bit earlier than us. I don’t think they are better than NASL, they just started a little earlier. … For being here longer, players are looking to play MLS first, then NASL. So they get the better quality players because they have the attention of the media and they’re more established.
Q You lived in Rio and Sao Paulo. Can you compare those two cities and also describe for someone who isn’t familiar with soccer in Brazil what the culture and love of the sport is like there?
A My whole family is from Rio, and I grew up in Rio and Sao Paulo. They’re two very different cities. Sao Paulo is kind of like New York — busy all the time, traffic. Rio is more like Miami — beachy, everybody likes to party. Everybody knows Brazil because of Rio. Both those [cities] culturally opened my views. … With soccer, everything starts with your parents and tradition. I could see the passion they had for soccer. They would take me to some of the games, rivals playing against each other. It’s the only thing they talk about it in the news. So it’s a family tradition and a media tradition. People are seeing it every day. It’s the same thing you get [in the U.S.] with football. … With soccer in the U.S., the [current] kids are going to start the tradition. When they have kids, the first gift those kids are going to receive is a soccer ball — not a football or a baseball bat. This love that you get, it has to pass through kids.