BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, April 19, 2010
As his first European season enters its final month, Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Alex Molano is progressing well at the Croatian club and is optimistic about his future for both club and country.
Last August, Molano went on a trial with Dinamo and was asked to return the following month and join the U-19 team on a two year assistantship contract.
Molano plays for Dinamo in his natural position as an attacking midfielder. His favorite and most common place to play is centrally behind the forwards but Dinamo's coaches have also occasionally played him out wide as a winger on either the left or right side.
For Molano, who turned 18 just last week, adjusting to both soccer and the way of life in Croatia were difficult. But as the year progressed, he has gradually come to enjoy his time playing in the former Yugoslavian country.
"I came here in August for a tryout for about 20 days," Molano recalled to YA. "At the end they told me to come back so then I came back at the beginning of September. In the beginning it was hard because I was a new player. I had to learn the language and everything. I know a lot more now and I can understand everything. It's all good now."
Dinamo's U19 team has been the best team in Croatia so far this season by a wide margin. They are currently in first place by ten points and the team consists of many player on Croatian youth national teams.
While Molano has played well for Dinamo earlier in the season, the second half of the season has seen his playing time limited because of an injured groin and a hip flexor. Despite these injuries, Molano is now healthy and he feels as if he is ready to help contribute to the Dinamo U-19 team's quest for the title.
"This past half season I haven't played that much because I've been injured," Molano said of his injuries. "In the preseason I was playing well but then I got injured and was out for about a month. I tried to come back but I got injured again. But now I think I am okay."
Molano initially came from the youth system of MLS team FC Dallas. He was noticed by a Dinamo scout and while only being 17 at the time, his move to Croatia was allowed because his grandmother is Croatian thus allowing him to claim citizenship.
While having only having played in Europe since August, Molano is impressed with the quality of play and coaching when compared with the United States.
"It's a lot better," Molano said bluntly. "It's Europe. We do a lot of tactics and that's a major part of the game here."
Molano said that next year, the final year of his assistant contract, he could either move up within Dinamo's organization or get loaned out to a team where he can see more first team playing time.
"Hopefully next year I will get moved up to the [senior team] or they will loan me out somewhere," Molano discussed. "They said that I will probably be loaned out next year but if I do well there and I prove that I can play for Dinamo, then that is where I would like to be."
As for his long term goals professionally at the club level, Molano said that one day he hopes to play in La Liga in Spain.
"I like FC Barcalona. I have liked them my whole life," The Dallas, Texas native admitted. "My goal is to play in Spain eventually. I love the way they play in Spain, not just at Barcelona. La Liga is the best soccer in the world."
Molano recently found out that that once his season with Dinamo is complete next month, he will travel to Uitgeest, Holland to play with the US U20 team in the International Cor Groenewegen Tournament.
While Molano has played in the past with the U-17 national team, it will be his first time playing with the US at the U-20 level. Making the U20 World Cup team next year is a priority for him and the fact that the tournament is in Colombia gives it added significance.
"I am really excited about the U20 call-up," Molano added. "I can't wait to play with them. I hope to go to the World Cup next year. That's one of my top goals. It's in Colombia and that is where my dad is from. My family will be able to go and watch."
Molano knows many of the players in the U-20 national team pool and he is optimistic of the team's chances next year at the World Cup
"I think we will have a strong team in Colombia," Molano concluded. "I think this is one of our best chances. We have a lot of players that play in Europe. We play well together. I think we can go far. "