Just two games into his Major League Soccer career, Ronald Matarrita finds himself fitting right in.
The highly-rated 21-year old from one of Costa Rica’s "Big Two" clubs, Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, has had a smooth transition from La Primera División of Costa Rica to the bright lights of New York City. But as he says, these two leagues are not without their differences.
"For me it’s different football. It’s much faster football, perhaps with more global stars and international-level players which help raise the level of the competition," Matarrita said after Sunday's draw against Toronto FC.
New York City FC, with four points through its first two games, will have another chance to test its might when it hosts Orlando City SC at 7pm ET this Friday in Yankee Stadium.
"The truth is, here [in MLS] I find the football to be very different than in [Costa Rica’s Primera División], but it’s definitely a great step for me to continue to grow and mature as a player."
The young Costa Rican National Team defender also had glowing praise for head coach Patrick Vieira, who is also new to MLS, though he felt the team is still learning its coach’s approaches.
"Vieira is a very intelligent coach, no doubt about that. He is implementing two styles of play, two different formations in which to set up the team, and I feel that in the two systems we’ve played in the last two games, we’ve played good games," Matarrita said.
Although last Sunday’s formation vs. Toronto FC was new to Matarrita and his New York City teammates, he felt that trying Vieira’s different systems could benefit the Bronx Blues in the long run.
"It felt a bit strange in this [3-4-3] formation in the beginning, but at as the game went on we grew into it and improved. This will help us have the versatility to use these two different systems in any game."
Indeed, for Matarrita, versatility is the name of the game. Last weekend against Toronto, he did a little bit of everything: he led the team in defensive interceptions, and was second only to the venerable Andrea Pirlo in passes and touches. Oh, and he's got some flair in him, too:
If the early returns are any indication, New York City is more than ready to embrace a little pura vida.