Demystifying Mista

Kristel Valencia is a correspondent for FútbolMLS.com - Major League Soccer's Spanish language news site.

MLSsoccer.com recently had the chance to chat with Toronto FC forward Miguel Ángel Ferrer Martínez, commonly known as "Mista." The Spaniard, who arrived at TFC  in July, scored a goal and tallied an assist in his team’s 2-1 victory over Mexico’s Cruz Azul in their CONCACAF Champions League match on Tuesday.

The striker, whose résumé includes the likes of Real Madrid, Valencia and Deportivo La Coruña, talked to us about his first impressions of MLS and Toronto FC. Mista discussed exacting revenge on the New York Red Bulls this weekend, his team’s role in the Champions League and, probably most importantly, the origin of his nickname.

MLSsoccer.com: How have you felt through your first month in MLS?

Mista: I’ve felt good. Perhaps it’s been a bit tough in terms of adapting, the change in time zones and adjusting to the rhythm of life in another part of the world. I’m happy, though, because things have turned out well [and] the team and the league have welcomed me quite well.

MLSsoccer.com: What led you to make the decision to come to MLS?

Mista: When I found out about the offer and that there was a possibility of playing for an MLS team, I consulted with my Toronto teammate Julian de Guzman, with whom I played in Spain, and he gave me the push to come. He told me about the situation here, how things were – he told me about everything. It’s been a great experience and appealing one for any player.

MLSsoccer.com: Is what you’ve seen of MLS thus far what you expected?

Mista: It’s been better than I imagined. Sometimes I was told that soccer in MLS wasn’t at the level that I played at. But now that I’ve arrived, I’ve noticed that it’s a league with a lot of quality and with growth potential superior to that of many other leagues. Today’s MLS has nothing to envy about other leagues. It’s improving day by day and has the mentality of creating a league as competitive as those of other countries.

MLSsoccer.com: What are your personal goals with Toronto?

Mista: To try to be the player I want to be and to be at 100 percent as soon as possible to help my team reach the MLS playoffs, which will be something great for us. In the CONCACAF Champions League, I want us to go as far as possible because it’s an important international tournament and every player wants to do a good job in that type of competition.

MLSsoccer.com: You forged a successful career in Spain. What has been your most memorable moment in your career so far?

Mista: I think it coincides with my time with Valencia, when we won two titles. We were champions in La Liga and we were champions in the UEFA Cup. Those are the moments I cherish the most.

MLSsoccer.com: What’s your impression of your new team?

Mista: It’s a good one. Since the first day that I arrived, they helped me adapt to the city and the team. Julian and the rest have explained everything to me, what they do, what they think about doing and the way the team functions on and off the pitch. I want to thank all of them because they’ve treated me in an exemplary manner.

MLSsoccer.com: What about coach Preki’s philosophy?

Mista: He’s a coach that used to play and that makes it easier for players to know their roles on the team. I spoke with him upon my arrival, we spoke about the soccer he wants to display and, when one is on good terms, things are a lot easier. He told me what he expected of me, and I told him what I could give.

MLSsoccer.com: What can we expect from Toronto in the CONCACAF Champions League?

Mista: It’s an important tournament where only the best in the region play. It’s a situation that fills us with pride and gives us a lot of responsibility because if Toronto are in there, it’s because of personal merit. We have to keep doing things well and keep working to win games, as it’s a great competition and valued by all participating in it.

MLSsoccer.com: Do you think group rivals Cruz Azul – which you beat Tuesday – Árabe Unido and Real Salt Lake will give you a tough fight?

Mista: Cruz Azul are a side that likes to possess the ball and is dangerous. That deserves respect because it’s something you have to look out for. We don’t know much about Árabe Unido, but we’re not worried because the coach’s job is to inform us, and [Preki] is doing a good job of that.

MLSsoccer.com: Toronto host the Red Bulls after playing a tough game last week at Red Bull Arena. How are you preparing for this game?

Mista: We expected a lot out of the game at Red Bull Arena because, had we won, we would’ve been a lot closer to the [Eastern Conference’s] second spot. I think we deserve to be in second, but we lost that game despite having played well and now we want to reverse the result. We want to win to pull closer to New York and, most of all, win to get closer to a playoffs spot.

MLSsoccer.com: Have you had the opportunity to speak to Rafa Márquez and Thierry Henry, whom you faced many times in La Liga, about their MLS experience?

Mista: I had the opportunity to speak with Thierry, and he told me similar things to what I’m experiencing, such as the process of adaptation. But he told me he was happy because New York have a fantastic team.

MLSsoccer.com: Are you reviving the rivalry that existed when you played Márquez and Henry in Europe?

Mista: Seeing Henry the other day was good, but there will always be a rivalry on the pitch because you always want to win. It’s not a negative rivalry, but it is important for me to beat the Red Bulls because they’re a team that is directly competing with us.

MLSsoccer.com: What the story behind your nickname?

Mista: It’s a nickname that comes from my family. It’s the nickname they called my grandfather and my grandfather’s grandfather. The tradition kept on, passing from father to son. But [we] never really knew the meaning of the word. My father was given the name when he was born, I was given the name when I was born, and I hope that my sons and their sons keep [the tradition alive].

MLSsoccer.com: How’s life in Toronto?

Mista: Good. It’s a tranquil city. People are very nice and I can get help every time I need it. Until now, I’m liking life and the way people have received me here.

MLSsoccer.com: What have you liked the most about your time in North America?

Mista: I like the passion that people here have for their sports, not just soccer. In Spain, one lives the passion for soccer, but I’ve noticed here that people follow other sports, like basketball, hockey and baseball with wild passion. That’s good for the athletes’ motivation.

MLSsoccer.com: How’s your English coming along?

Mista: Not very well, but I’m taking classes to improve. It’s improved a lot since I got here, but I hope that in a few months I can speak English more fluently.

MLSsoccer.com: Finally, do you have an interesting anecdote of something you’ve experienced in Canada?

Mista: I had a big scare when I got here with my work permit and was stopped by customs in the airport. I was freaked a bit because I didn’t know where they were taking me, which ended up simply being to give me a permit. But since I knew nothing and was a little lost, I thought they were going to deport me back to Spain and, I thought I would have to explain myself to the club.