Peterson Joseph arrived in Kansas City as a virtual unknown in the world of Major League Soccer, but both he and Sporting hope it won’t stay that way for long.
Though he’s only officially been a member of the squad since Sept. 1, the 21-year-old has already managed to make an impression, playing a composed 45 minutes in central midfield against Newcastle United back in July.
He hasn’t made his MLS debut yet despite two appearances on the bench, but Joseph said he would be ready whenever that moment comes. And when it does, the Haitian hopes he will be able to get his career back on track after losing momentum late in his stay in Portugal with SC Braga.
Joseph sat down with MLSsoccer.com following training on Wednesday with trainer Mateus Manoel translating to talk about his move to Sporting, the time he spent in Europe and his dreams for the future.
MLSsoccer.com: How did this move come about? Why did you decide to make the move to Kansas City from Portuguese club Braga?
Joseph: My objective for coming to Kansas City was to get more playing time. I wasn’t getting much at Braga. It was a transition to be able to expose myself a little bit more, get some more minutes on the field and eventually make it back to Europe, where I know soccer is really happening. For now, I am enjoying my time here, and I hope to contribute to the team.
MLSsoccer.com: Your nickname is something people have latched on to since you started training in Kansas City. When did people start calling you the "Haitian Xavi," and how did it come about?
Joseph: When I first came to Braga, I went to play a match with the junior team. The assistant coach saw me play and it reminded him of Xavi for a second. They started that out there, and I basically carry that wherever I go now.
MLSsoccer.com: You’re very skilled on the ball and have a kind of innate ability to work your way out of pressure. It was one of the reasons manager Peter Vermes gave for signing you. Where did you develop those skills? Not every player has those.
Joseph: I’m the youngest of four brothers who all play. Basically, I had to play catch up my whole life and acquire those skills from my older brothers. Obviously, though, in Haiti people learn on the street how to play. A lot of what I have is from playing soccer in the back streets. Eventually, I got some more formal instruction. But, in my opinion, the basis of technique is picked up when you are small and discovering it on your own.
MLSsoccer.com: How did the opportunity to become a professional come about for you?
Joseph: As I child, I always watched Barcelona play, and my dream was always to play for them. In Haiti, it’s kind of difficult because professional soccer is not as developed as other countries. I followed in my brother’s footsteps and was able to play for a small club, where I was lucky to meet an agent who saw me play at 17 or 18 years of age. He wanted to take me to Europe. He took me to Braga. I started playing for the reserve team for Braga. That’s where it sort of all began. I had a tough time with a knee injury in Portugal. I stopped playing for basically a year. It was tough for me to get back. It sort of put me off track in a sense. The decision to come out here was to keep pursuing my dream.
MLSsoccer.com: Have you noticed any differences between the professional game here and in Portugal?
Joseph: There isn’t a major difference. The culture is just more attentive to soccer in Europe. There is more pressure, I would say. But in terms of training, infrastructure and the things they are trying to do here, it is very similar to Europe. Obviously, there are better players and more quality out there, but I see the league very strongly.
MLSsoccer.com: You’ve got six senior caps for Haiti now. What does representing your country mean to you?
Joseph: For me, it is really just about pride. I am very proud to be able to help the national team. At the same time, it is more exposure for me internationally in terms of who can watch me play. But it’s really just a good thing to help the national team with my qualities.
MLSsoccer.com: Where do you think you fit into Sporting Kansas City? What is your best position?
Joseph: I’ll help wherever I can. I don’t really know exactly yet.
MLSsoccer.com: You must be aching to play after coming back from an injury and changing clubs, though.
Joseph: I’m doing what I have to do to be ready whenever the coach needs me. Even if it is five minutes, I’ll be ready to show what I can bring to the team and enjoy it a little bit. I’m not worried about when that will come. I know it will come. It’s just a matter of being ready.