FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Since the moment Christian Mafla landed in New England early last week, the 28-year-old left back has had a smile permanently affixed to his face. Whether it was meeting his Revolution teammates for the first time, joining them in full training after a week of individual workouts, or simply taking promotional photos for the club, he seems to be enjoying every minute.
“Mafla seems like a character,” said one of those new teammates, Matt Polster. “He seems like he likes to have a good time, and you need those kinds of guys in the changing room. It’s good to have him from a soccer standpoint. He seems really composed on the ball. He likes to go forward and attack.”
Speaking with local media for the first time on Thursday afternoon, Mafla confirmed his excitement as he begins a new adventure in Major League Soccer, noting the growing reputation of the league in his native Colombia and citing previous trips to the United States as factors which informed his decision.
Mafla spent the first decade of his career in South America, most recently with Colombian powerhouse Atlético Nacional, where he played under former Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls head coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who also spoke highly of MLS and Bruce Arena.
“First of all, I’m happy to be here in this great club in New England,” Mafla said via translator. “When I was told that coming to New England was an option, I really didn’t doubt it. I wanted to play in MLS. It’s a growing league, and I’m just really excited to have made this important decision to come here to New England.
“In Colombia, they know (MLS) is a growing league. Some might say it’s a league where a lot of big European players come to finish their careers, but I view it as a league that’s growing and it’s on the rise. Personally, I see it as an opportunity to grow and play a different style of football – a style that’s on the rise. The league is growing a lot, and pretty soon it’s going to reach the level of being one of the top leagues.”
Still, moving to a foreign country to join a new team and new league without speaking the language can be a daunting task, and friendly faces can make all the difference in easing those adjustments. Thankfully, Mafla has found a compatriot in Luis Caicedo, who has made sure to make his fellow Colombian feel at home in New England.
“I had the chance to speak with him before coming here,” Mafla said of Caicedo, who is entering his fourth year with the Revs. “He spoke to me about the club, he told me a little bit about the club, and he’s helped me a lot here. I’m happy to have someone from my country on the same team. I’m very excited to have him as a teammate.”
Mafla is also excited to have Arena as a coach – “They told me that he’s a coach that likes to attack a lot, and that’s something that I like a lot,” he said – and he’s anticipating big things as the Revs look to take the next step and improve upon last year’s run to the Eastern Conference Final.
“They’re very high,” Mafla said when asked about his expectations for 2021. “I want to help this team the best I can. I want to have a great season, and God willing, win a championship at the end of the season.”