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March 17, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Gonzalo Pineda opens up on needing surgery, weighing retirement before joining Sounders

I wrote a quick post the other day on Gonzalo Pineda making his debut for the Sounders on Saturday, but we got a good 10 minutes with the veteran midfielder after Monday’s practice. The former Mexican international opened up about some difficult times in his life and career before coming to Seattle, which involved surgery to repair a sports hernia, a 10-month layoff, depression and considering retirement.

Plenty of other topics came up, and here is a full transcript:

*     *     *

(You speak very good English. Pardon the question, but where did you learn the language so well?) “I don’t think I speak good English. (laughs) … I don’t know. Watching movies, and of course in school I studied a little bit, but not that much.”

(What movies were you watching?) “Movies from the U.S., and I’d put on the subtitles to understand. I’d listen to music and I’d say, ‘Hey, what are they saying in the music?’ Stuff like that.”

(Can you tell us a little bit about the injury you had?) “At the end of the season with my last team, which was Queretaro, I (had) a bad sports hernia. I tried to get better with some therapy, but I couldn’t. I went to see a doctor in Guadalajara, one of the best, he’s the doctor of Chivas, and he (performed) surgery for the injury. That was in August last year, so I didn’t train almost like 10 months. It’s hard to return when you didn’t touch a ball in 10 months, but I am trying my best. I think that the training is very hard, it’s very good to me, and I’m getting better each day.”

(So when you joined the Sounders on trial, was that the first time you had played in 10 months?) “Well, before my surgery, I came to the Chicago Fire — a trial for one week. I felt like I wasn’t good, so then I said, ‘Thank you for the opportunity, but I can’t be like this.’ So I tried the surgery. It was hard, but I think that they are giving a very good opportunity to me to get back, and I’m trying my best.”

(When you deal with an injury like that and having to undergo surgery, did you considered retirement?) “Yeah, of course. Absolutely. It wasn’t easy for me, for my family, because I was (dealing) with a little depression. Of course, then I think, ‘Hey, that’s it, I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to keep playing like this.’ I say, ‘Well, I want to retire.’ But I don’t know, the time passed and I felt like, ‘Hey, I’m 31, and I want to (get) something more from soccer. I want to be a champion again. I want to be on the field again.’ So that’s what I’m trying to do, you know? Enjoy every day. And then when I came with the Sounders, it was like a very new experience. It was like my first time in soccer. So I’m trying to enjoy every single day in here.”

(Giving all that, the surgery and pondering retirement, Saturday’s game had to be particularly special for you…) “Yeah. Well, we lost, so I get sad a little bit. But also when I was alone the Saturday after the game, I cried, because I don’t know, it was very special to me to get back on the field and play a game again after all the sufferings, all the pain, for me, for my family. It was hard, but I am very happy to be here, so I am trying just to get better each day and contribute with the team. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

(What did you think of the crowd and the atmosphere?) “That was amazing. That was just perfect. I have never seen that, because in Mexico, when you lose a game, even with your own crowd, they are always saying ‘Booo! Come on! Why did you lose?’ So after the game, I (expected) that the crowd would say you didn’t do well, right? I don’t know, but after the game, they always supported us. That was very special. That was very good to me. That means that we have a very good crowd, so that makes me feel more – I don’t know how to say in English – that I have to do my best for this crowd also.”

(You have so many followers on Twitter and Instagram. You have Mexican national team fans. You have Spanish-language media talking to you a lot. What has been the impression so far of your move to MLS and the Sounders?) “It’s amazing. Just the first day the Sounders announced me as an official new player, I grew my Twitter account like 1,000 or 2,000 (followers). That was amazing. Of course the Latin people here in Seattle, they are supporting and always saying good words about me. But also the American people, they are also telling me all the time on Twitter, ‘You could be a good player for us this season. We hope that.’ That’s a good thing for me.”

(What was the last time you were with the Mexican national team?) “An official game, I think like 2007. There was the World Cup and then (Copa America), after that I went sometimes with the national team, but didn’t play official matches.”

(Was it tough watching World Cup qualifying last year?) “Yeah. It was hard for us. It was difficult times. But we are in the World Cup, and let’s hope the best for the national team of Mexico. I hope they can bring a lot of victories to us, but I think that it will be hard because the coach has not had very much time to involve all of them. I don’t know. He’s a very good coach and I hope the best for him and for the players. I don’t know if the time will be the right one.”

(With the CONCACAF Champions League here and games between MLS and Mexican teams, what is the perception of MLS in Mexico?) “Well, we don’t watch too much MLS. On ESPN and FOX Sports and all of that, we always watch the European teams, Spain, England, Holland and French football. But we know, of course, that MLS is growing up. Every single year it’s growing up. You see Thierry Henry is going to New York. Rafa Marquez is going to New York. Every single year, you hear of the best players going to MLS. Right now it’s Julio Cesar. Right now it’s (Jermain) Defoe. I don’t know if (Carles) Puyol is coming to MLS, but with all that, in Mexico we think you are doing well with the league. Right now that I’m in MLS, I can say you are very organized, you have a very good vision about 2020 and 2022 and being the best league in the world. I think that could happen because you are very organized, you’re doing it step by step, year by year, and getting better. Let’s see what happens.”

(You mentioned trying out with Chicago before the surgery. What was it about MLS that appealed to you at this stage in your career?) “I know that this is a very competitive league. Of course, when I was young, I was always was looking to play outside of my country. Sometimes I was looking at Europe, but MLS is also outside of my country, so that works for me. It’s a new experience, it’s a new way to think, it’s a different way to see soccer, so I want to try that. This is why I was looking for an opportunity here, and that’s the attractive part for me, because also it’s a very competitive and very physical. If I can do well in a physical league, I can do well in the Mexican league, where it’s not that intense and it’s not that physical soccer. That’s what I wanted to try in this league.”

| More in Sounders FC, Stop and chats

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