INTERVIEW- Away from the limelight, Sergio Cordova has been putting in the work since his unfortunate hamstring injury against LA Galaxy on March 18th. The 25-year-old Venezuelan striker was just starting to get into the rhythm of things before the injury took him out for 0ver six weeks. But now, at the tail end of his recovery, I sat down with “El Pantera” to discuss how he has adjusted to the league, to Vancouver, and to his injury setback, as well as what he hopes to accomplish ahead of his potential return against Minnesota, where he looks to make an even better second impression than he did before.
Turning A New Leaf: An Exclusive Interview With Sergio Cordova
First Impressions At Vancouver Whitecaps
After a lovely training session in the sun on Thursday afternoon, Sergio Cordova sat down with me to chat in his native tongue of Spanish, dressed in some sleek designer wear. It seems like he has adjusted well to his life in North America, in a league that he has already become familiar with, and one he thinks will surprise many who are on the outside looking in.
“This league [MLS] is very similar to the German league in terms of intensity. I think the German one is a bit higher, but there isn’t much difference. It truly surprised me… and I think it will become one of the best leagues in the world, for sure. ”
After arriving at the Whitecaps in February, he was surprised at the style of play being built here.
“It’s a different philosophy of work here… the intensity and the physical levels [needed] are higher here than they were at the previous club I was at. I was surprised.”
However, he arrived towards the end of pre-season for the Whitecaps, not allowing him to get to the levels of sharpness that the rest of the team was already at. As such, he was slowly being integrated into the first few matches, making only some brief appearances to try to get him acclimated to the league. But ultimately, it wasn’t the start that either he or the fans were hoping for.
“A lot of these things you can’t control. You can’t control when you transfer to the team, so I had to arrive a bit behind my teammates who had a full pre-season. But these are things in football, it’s part of our day-to-day.”
“I just try to enjoy what I can, like my career, my teammates, my partner, and playing the game.”
TRANSFER NEWS ✍️
Whitecaps FC sign new DP striker Sergio Córdova, bringing on the Venezuelan international on a 3-year deal 💪
In exchange? #VWFC send 2024 1st-round pick + $300K GAM to Real Salt Lake 🤝
DETAILS 👉 https://t.co/fbcEynalQW pic.twitter.com/gd6VBetHB3
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) February 20, 2023
Early Pressures for Cordova
As the games went on, however, pressure was mounting. The DP tag that came along with his signing demanded a certain level of performance and quality. One that Cordova wasn’t able to achieve in those first few appearances. The title proved to put that pressure on him at first, but he admits that after his injury, he has eased away from focusing on that tag, and instead focuses on his own game.
“At the beginning, it put some pressure on me, of course. But now I see it differently. I don’t really care if I have it [the DP tag] or not. In the end, what matters is if I am happy with myself, with my performance in training, and with my life outside of the game.”
Before that game against Galaxy, he had only played 232 minutes of competitive play for the Whitecaps. But already, people were questioning whether he could fit the bill that the club was dishing out to have him here as that DP striker.
“It [the DP tag] is another thing I can’t control, it’s the rules of the game in this league, so I can’t do anything about it. I cannot focus on it, so I am just going to take the same responsibilities my teammates have, and play.”
And, to be fair to him, in the games just before Galaxy, he started to show flashes of his quality. He was decent in the build-up against FC Dallas and against Real Espana in the Concacaf Champions League. He had yet to score for his team and was definitely not at 100%, but it finally felt like he was close to demonstrating what he was all about. Cordova even got called up to the Venezuela national team and was slated to travel with them after the Galaxy game.
But then, disaster struck.
Sergio Cordova definitely offers #VWFC the outlet they have been missing last season. But I also feel that so many decisions made in the final third lead to opportunities missed. Whitecaps should probably be up by a couple at this point.
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) March 9, 2023
Injury A Blessing In Disguise?
Cordova had managed to start his second consecutive game against LA Galaxy, after his performances versus Real Espana. Once again, it looked like he was still trying to get used to the pace of the game in the first half, only managing nine touches before his injury.
But the injury itself looked innocuous, as around the 40-minute mark, he suddenly started to ease off his right leg a bit. He began to run a bit gingerly in the midfield before sitting down in the opposition box after a loose cross went astray. Play went on but confused and concerned looks could be seen from the bench and from his teammates. It was not clear what had happened to Cordova, but it was evident that he was not going to be able to continue.
It is not surprising to then find out how taxing this was on a player like Cordova. Having just come into this team, trying to get up to speed, only to be taken out when he looked like he was finally gaining some steam.
“The first few weeks were frustrating, obviously, because when things aren’t going your way, you get frustrated. But then I tried to spin it in a positive way, and realized that it allowed me to have some time to work on my condition and to be able to reach that level of physicality that my teammates have.”
“I lost a few weeks, but the season is long, we have a lot of games to play still, and the important thing is not how you start, but how you finish.”
NEWS | Striker Sergio Córdova suffered a right hamstring strain in the first half of last Saturday’s match at LA Galaxy and is expected to be out for 6 to 8 weeks.
Wishing you a full and speedy recovery, Sergio. #VWFC
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 21, 2023
Second Chance To Shine
Now, after six long weeks, Cordova looks better than ever. In training, he has looked sharp in the build-up to the game against Minnesota, demonstrating his lethal nature in the box and his physicality against his fellow defenders. And it all stems from that newfound confidence after this time of recovery.
“Today, I feel really good. I feel like I am reaching a very good level, I feel like I have grown every day and I think I am at a better point in my condition [right now] than I was when I first arrived.”
And while this should come as good news for many fans, Cordova is set on his priorities.
“I don’t want to try to go out and put pressure on myself to prove myself to anyone because I know what I am all about and what I can bring. I know that when things start falling into place for me, I’ll be able to play my game the way I want to play it.”
“The good times are still to come, and I am confident that I will be able to bring joy to the team, to the city, and to all the fans.”
Time will tell on how big a splash Cordova will make in Vancouver, but, in the face of some goalscoring woes for the team, many more will hope that the good times will roll sooner rather than later for him.
RT x2 😮💨 @scordova22 https://t.co/2BhseAJJDV pic.twitter.com/I27GXbPOjc
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 3, 2023
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports on March 8, 2023, of a Sergio Cordova Headshot.