Jose Mauri didn't exactly have ample time to adapt before getting thrust into his first MLS action.
With his team shorthanded, the recently-signed Sporting Kansas City midfielder was forced into starting duties and played 68 minutes in his new team's match against LAFC last Friday, getting his first taste of the league since arriving from Argentina. The match itself became one that was impossible to glean much from, as a 58th-minute red card to Roger Espinoza put Sporting down to 10 men in what eventually devolved into a 4-0 defeat.
While it wasn't the debut he would have wanted results-wise, Mauri said he was nonetheless pleased to be entrusted so shortly after signing Aug. 5 just before the Secondary Transfer Window closed.
"Honestly, I was a bit surprised I was thrown in without the training, but I was very happy because one always wants to play as a player and I'm also very content with his confidence in me and my abilities," he told reporters on a Tuesday video call. "I want to, however, continue to train and work hard to be the best that I can for the future games."
Friday's result aside, Mauri joins a Sporting KC side that's very much entrenched as a Western Conference contender, jostling with the Seattle Sounders and Colorado Rapids at or near the top of the table for much of the season. Sporting are currently in the No. 3 spot with 11 regular-season games to go.
As for what he brings tactically, head coach Peter Vermes said he should slot as a deeper-lying midfielder. For the moment, it's just about getting Mauri's fitness up to speed as he joins from his last stop with Argentine Primera Division club Talleres de Cordoba, where he'd spent the last two seasons.
"He’s a 6-8, 8-6. He can play both of those positions," Vermes said. "I think he has a lot of qualities for both those positions that we like, he’s good on the ball, he’s got good positioning, defensively, he gets it. Now, he’s not in game fitness yet. Unfortunately we had to start him this past week just because of a limited number of guys in that area of the field. It’s just something we had to do, but I actually thought that for a good portion of his time in the game he was actually pretty good. But to be successful in this sport, you always have to have the first foundation and that's fitness.
"Again, It's not his fault, it's just the circumstances. He was in preseason trying to get ready for a season, he would’ve been starting off with all the other players. But now we're basically two-thirds into the season and he's trying to play catch up and that's why it's important to have players and have an opportunity to rotate players around so a guy like him can build his minutes. But again, I think he did well in the game the other day. It was basically throwing him to the wolves in the first game and let's go and let's play."
Mauri arrives in MLS with plenty of pedigree. Before his move to Talleres de Cordoba, the 25-year-old spent six seasons in Italy's top-flight Serie A, where he featured for Parma, Empoli and powerhouse side AC Milan from 2013-2019.
Regarding why he made the move to MLS now, Mauri cited Sporting's track record.
"What really brought me to Kansas City was the sensation of security," he said. "They have a very serious structure here. It's a place where I feel as though I can grow not only as a player, but as a person as well.
"I'm going to be honest, I did not know a whole lot about the league before coming. But when this possibility arose I learned more about it and the more I learned, the more excited I am to be here and I'm looking forward to what's coming next."
Now, factoring into a midfield that lost homegrown U.S. men's national teamer Gianluca Busio this summer (transfer to Serie A's Venezia), Mauri could be poised for an important stretch-run role. Other key Sporting midfielders are Remi Walter, Roger Espinoza and Gadi Kinda, as well as homegrown Cam Duke.
"I'm very much looking forward to working with these players and against them and being able to learn from them," Mauri said of his teammates.