FRISCO - There was one goal on the mind of midfielder Carlos Gruezo when leaving the German Bundesliga for Major League Soccer: get back into the Ecuador squad in time for Copa America.
The 21-year-old was named to manager Gustavo Quinteros' 23-man squad for the upcoming Copa America Centenario alongside names like Antonio Valencia, Jefferson Montero and Enner Valencia.
“I’m very excited and very happy to be representing Ecuador again," said Gruezo through a translator. "I knew that if I continued to play, I’d make it back on the squad and I hope to do a good job and make everyone proud.”
Gruezo has started 11 of 13 matches for FC Dallas, missing one through yellow card suspension and another through coach's decision, and the defensive midfielder has quickly established himself among the best at his position in MLS. Gruezo ranks in the top five of league midfielders in tackles and while he doesn't have a goal to his name yet, a few long-range strikes have come close including cracking one off the crossbar against Portland.
“I’m happy with the way things turned out. At first, I was a little nervous, I didn’t know much about the league," said Gruezo on coming to FC Dallas. "But after talking with the coaches and coach Oscar, I knew that the only thing I wanted was to get minutes in the field and to make it back on the [Ecuador] squad.”
One of the youngest players to start a match at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Gruezo brings experience ahead of his age to an Ecuador side that opens the tournament against Brazil before facing Haiti and Peru in a group they'll fancy their chances to advance from.
“I think it’s going to be a very tough group and obviously Brazil is going to the one who’s talked about the most," said Gruezo. "But we need to treat every team equally and prepare equally for every single one.”
First up for Gruezo, however, is a match that hits close to home. He and Ecuador will face off against the United States on Wednesday in a Copa tune-up for both squads, a game he hopes to start.
“It’s a beautiful game, I’m really exited," said Gruezo. "It’s nice to be able to play here at home with a field that I’m used to and I’m very excited and it’s a beautiful game.”