BEAVERTON, Ore. – Cristian Ojeda was a late arrival for Timbers 2 this year, moving from Atlético Talleres in his home country, Argentina, just before the United Soccer League season. Though his acquisition was announced on March 1, it took Ojeda longer to relocate from South American and settle into his new home. It was March 30 before the midfielder was able to make his USL debut.
Five months later, Ojeda has secured regular playing time in the T2 lineup, upping his season totals to three goals and three assists in 21 games after the team’s 3-1 weekend win at Reno 1868 FC. Thanks to that victory, Portland finds themselves within one point of a playoff spot in USL’s Western Conference with eight games left in the season.
As the team returned to the training ground on Tuesday, we caught up with the 21-year-old Ojeda for the latest Quick 3:
Timbers.com: The team got a big win this weekend in Reno, and had good game a couple of weeks ago when you beat New Mexico United at home. Beyond the results, have you seen a change in the team’s play? How do you feel about T2’s recent performances?
Ojeda: I think it depends on which game you’re talking about. But yes, there has been a difference – a change – but, for me, it’s been different for each game. For example, in the last game, (the height) they were setting their lines at was different than what we’ve been seeing before, so for me, that requires a different type of solution.
But definitely, over the last couple of games, when opponents have been doing things like this, sometimes we’ve be able to found solutions. It could be better, but I think there was a change. I think we’re moving forward.
Timbers.com: Like others in the club, you’ve made the decision to leave home, come to Portland, take your career to the United States. We’ve asked this of others, but if you had to advise somebody on making this kind of move, what would you tell them?
Ojeda: It's difficult to make the move I did, but you have to understand that, when it comes to things like this, nothing is impossible. So, you just say to yourself, I can learn from everything. I believe that if anybody comes here, and they’re willing to learn, it can be the best decision not only for themselves but also the people around them.
Beyond just myself, the game is different here than in Argentina, no? I think I saw that the first month I was here. But the more that I’ve been here, the better I’ve understood what works, and also what you have to have to been successful here, both on and off the field.
So, when I first came here, I think I was initially focused on keeping up with and fitting into the team. Because back then, I was so focused on what I could do to help, and I just wanted to see where I’d be the best fit. But before long, I was keeping up with everything the team was trying to do, and now, I feel like I’m a part of everything. I don’t feel like any of those (stylistic) things are as much of a problem.
In truth, I’m really happy that I’ve been able to come to a big club like this. And as I’ve seen that I’ve been ready for more, I’ve been getting more minutes. I think I’ve been able to help the team.
Timbers.com: What about away from the life? What is your life like away from the team, and how have you enjoyed not only life (in the United States) but the culture, in this country?
Ojeda: My life away from the field is just … normal? I have my girlfriend here. My family has been here, has felt comfortable here. Everything with that has been really good.
The lifestyle in the United States is really good, too. It’s very calm. Like other players who come here say, it’s different than in Argentina, but that quiet part of life is probably the most important difference, for me. It’s true that in Argentina, you can’t do a lot of things (in public). Here, you can do the things you want and nobody bothers you. That’s been something I’ve really enjoyed.