|RedNation Interview Series: Juan Cordova
Juan Cordova, 21, is new to the Canadian program but has been a pro with Unión San Felipe of Chile's Primera B Division since 2013. A player capable of playing both right and left back, Cordova has made more than 60 appearances with the first team and has earned call-ups from both the Chilean U20 team and Canadian U23 team. With Canada, he won the Aspire Tournament in Qatar under new national team coach Octavio Zambrano last month.
We spoke with Canada's newest recruit about his game, his future, Zambrano and the impact Latin American-based players could have on the Canadian program.
RedNation Online: What are your impressions of Canada's program so far and how did this opportunity come about?
Juan Cordova: The Canadian program has impressed. It's a serious, professional and ambitious. The managers are motivated to make Canada a regional power and I am determined to play my part. It’s an honor to wear the Canada jersey and consider myself fortunate to have signed on with Peter Raco from Toronto who introduced me to Michael Findlay and the CSA.
RNO: You've gotten to play under new senior coach Octavio Zambrano before many members of the senior team. What's he like as a person and to play under? How would you describe his coaching style?
Juan Cordova: Octavio is passionate and demanding. He stresses possession and the incursions with wall. He likes us to play as a compact, organized, disciplined unit. It was very important opportunity for me to show him I can fit this style. I didn’t have much time to get to know him personally but look forward to do so in the coming years. He seemed happy with my game
RNO: How does a Canadian camp compare to a Chilean camp?
Juan Cordova: As I mentioned, I was positively surprised with the national team setup. Demands were similar to that of Chilean camps in terms of tempo and expectations. The association is run well, the players are treated well…very encouraging
RNO: Do you prefer playing right-back or left-back? How would you describe your style?
Juan Cordova: Both. I play as a RB more often but am confident in both positions. I’m a fast, technical player that grew up in competitive environments in South America. As an attacking defender, I have to be confident to dribble or pass out of pressured areas and create opportunities at both RB and LB.
RNO: How did you join Unión San Felipe? What's it like with them?
Juan Cordova: Growing up a played with an amateur club, Nogales. At 15 I was introduced to Union San Felipe and at 16 signed to a first-team contract.
It’s a good club, strong standards. We play possession and high-pressure football. The league is technical yet physical. It’s been a pleasure playing with the first team for 4 years now. I want to win for the club and the community.
RNO: Is there anywhere you would like to play?
Juan Cordova: My goal is clear, I want to play in a top league in North America or Europe. Like I said earlier, I am a passionate player and I want to bring that to a club and community that shares the passion. It means so much for me to win for a club that supports me.
RNO: What players do you model yourself after?
Juan Cordova: Dani Alves, because I have the same style and I like the way he plays.
RNO: Prior to coming on board, did you follow MLS at all and what do you think of it?
Juan Cordova: Yes, when not playing or training I watch football…many leagues including MLS. Last year I went to a Toronto match at BMO Field. As a fan, it was a fun experience. The growth of the game is impressive. Even looking back five years, the growth and improvement in quality, facilities, and fan base is quite an achievement for the league and particularly Canada. The rest of the world is noticing, absolutely. I want to be a part of this one day.
RNO: Canada has struggled for success in Latin America (South America, Central America, Mexico) over the last decade. How do you see the entry of yourself, Zambrano and other players based on Latin American teams (including your U23 teammate Keven Aleman) impacting that?
Juan Cordova: Latin America is a challenging place to play especially if you are not comfortable or have limited experience in the conditions. Clubs take every advantage to win. I am fortunate to have gained the comfortable level in such environments throughout my upbringing.
Kevin and I connect well. Play in Chile has similarity to Central America. It will be important for players with similar experience to contribute at the national team level. Canada needs to get results in these parts of the world
RNO: Is there anyone on the Canadian men's senior team you're looking forward to playing with?
Juan Cordova: Many! It would be an honor to play with Atiba Hutchinson, Arfield, Junior Hoilett, or Larin. I also looking forward to playing with other core guys who have proven skills at top levels…Edgar, Fraser Aird (great performance versus Scotland), Will Johnson, Osorio…Hutch is flat out impressive!
RNO: You've been named to the “Team of the Week” for Primera B a few times this season already. Do you see a move to Primera División or a news league on the horizon for you?
Juan Cordova: It’s important for me to win these honors and show my skills early in my career. I’ve attracted interest in Primera and hope to make the move upwards soon. I am prepared to do so. I put in the work and am motivated. Just recently I signed with Peter and we are confident this move upwards will happen soon.
RNO: How did it feel winning the Aspire Tournament in your first outing with a Canadian national team? What player impressed you the most?
Juan Cordova: I'm so happy and proud to have won that tournament because it was my first selection with Canada. The first of many more hopefully! The players all team impressed me on the pitch and I made some great friends off the field. We should be excited for the future of Canada Soccer.