Santiago Hirsig was in the heart of a title race last year in his native Argentina, but that didn't keep him from thinking about a career outside of his homeland. The veteran playmaker had long been eager to experience life and soccer outside Argentina and a contract conflict with San Lorenzo opened the door for him to consider a league he watched growing rapidly.
That league is MLS and the country the United States, where Hirsig now plies his trade as the Kansas City Wizards' new attacking midfielder. After a dozen years as a professional in Argentina, Hirsig is looking forward to the challenge of a new league and new country.
"It was my decision for some time to have an experience outside my country, so when I had this conflict with my former club, I saw this opportunity," Hirsig told SBI. "The United States has always been a place I have been interested in and when Kansas City approached me, it became an easy decision.
"There were other offers but I chose this club because I know it's a good club that works well and is in a beautiful city," Hirsig said. "I spoke with (Claudio Lopez) and some others and knew it was a good place to be."
Hirsig had been on Kansas City's radar for more than a year but the Wizards didn't think they had a realistic chance of landing him, at least until a dispute over unpaid wages helped clear the way for Hirsig to leave San Lorenzo.
"If you look around the world there are a lot of places where players being paid can be an issue, and in this case, it opened the door to sign a player we were very intersted in," Wizards technical director Peter Vermes said. "He's a polished player who should help our offense create chances.
"There will be an adjustment period for him, but I'm confident he will adapt."
The Wizards are banking on Hirsig being the playmaker the club has needed for years, and with Lopez back and Josh Wolff enjoying a strong pre-season, the Kansas City attack could see considerable improvement from 2008, when it managed just 37 goals (third fewest in MLS and fewest among playoff teams).
"I'm a player who feels comfortable with possession and the responsibility of creating," Hirsig said. "(The Wizards) are a team that plays good soccer and I already feel like I will fit in here."
What do you think of Kansas City's addition of Hirsig? Could he wind up having a Schelotto-like impact? Do yo think he will struggle to adjust to MLS? Are you liking the Wizards as a sleeper team in 2009?
Share your thoughts below.