Andrés Perea admitted it’s a bit strange returning to the United States.
He was born in Tampa but moved to Medellín, Colombia when he was five years old and spent most of his life growing up and playing with the youth academy at Atletico Nacional.
In 2017, Perea made his professional debut with Nacional. Three years later, he finds himself in a new place with a new team but in a not-so-new country.
It’s unusual, but he’s embracing it.
“It’s very different, it’s obviously a completely different culture here,” said Perea. “The language, the food, but I think that helps in my transformation and that’s a positive for my career — being able to apply myself to new surroundings.”
For Perea, 19, his career began taking a turn shortly after an impressive outing with Colombia during last year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Perea and Los Cafeteros made it to the quarterfinals of the tournament in Poland, but shortly after, interest in the Nacional midfielder began circling.
Among those teams looking to acquire Perea’s services were Brazilian side Flamengo and Orlando City.
The Lions eventually landed Perea’s signature and made it official on Dec. 9 when they signed Perea on a one-year loan deal with an option to buy from Atletico Nacional.
But it was a visit from Orlando head scout Leonardo Baldo, who’s based in Brazil, who flew to Colombia to convince Perea why Orlando was the better option.
“I came to the decision to join Orlando because I liked the project they shared with me. They showed the most interest,” Perea recently told the Orlando Soccer Journal. “In addition, they sent a scout to Colombia who showed me what the project in Orlando was like. He convinced me pretty much. What the project in Orlando was like, and that gave me a sense of confidence and security in making my decision.”
Perea, however, was still weighing his options at that time, including an offer from Flamengo, but for Perea, the offer from the Brazilian team didn’t feel right, he said.
“Honestly, the project in Flamengo didn’t really convince me,” said Perea. “I liked the project in the United States because I can finish my development as a player here. I’m still young despite having three years as a professional player.”
“I had to make a difficult decision but in the end, I chose with Orlando,” he added.
Perea along with all the new played signed to Orlando in 2020 were discovered by the club’s director of scouting Ricardo Moreira, the OSJ has learned.
First-year Orlando City head coach Óscar Pareja confirmed Perea was already in the club’s plans before he signed on to become the next Lions coach on Dec. 4.
“I found out Andrés was in Orlando’s plans around the same time we were having dialogue to join the club,” Pareja said in his native Spanish. “So I was very pleased to know that because I was watching him with the U-20 Colombian team in the World Cup, and I know his father [Nixon Perea] as well from my time playing professionally in Colombia.”
For Pareja, he’s confident Perea along with the entire squad can perform up to his standards this upcoming regular season.
“We’re optimistic,” said Pareja. “Not only with Andrés but with everybody. We have a huge responsibility with the club, we have a responsibility amongst each other to put this team in its rightful place.”
Off the pitch, Perea said his ability to speak English is adequate — just enough to have a decent conversation.
But on the pitch, the American-born Colombian said he saw the option of returning to the United States to play professionally gives him the possibility of playing one day in Europe.
“On a personal level, I looked at the pros and cons before making my decision,” said Perea. “In Colombia, they say MLS is very physical, very fast. I knew if I could have success there, I could have the possibility of going to play in Europe someday, so that was one advantage.”
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