By DAVE MARTINEZ
As surprised as people were about the Red Bulls trading Juan Agudelo for Heath Pearce, perhaps nobody was as taken aback as the former Chivas USA defender himself.
“If it was sudden from your perspective, it was more sudden from mine,” Pearce told reporters after his first practice with New York. “I had no idea. It was kind of out of left field, but I am excited for the opportunity. To be traded to a team like New York Red Bulls that has so much tradition here and so much demand for results and pressure to get results – I like that environment. It’s a big-market team that is doing well, and I am excited to be here.”
Pearce was getting treatment prior to a training session when the strength and conditioning coach informed him that Chivas head coach Robin Fraser wished to speak to him.
“(He) called me into his office and it was like a ghost town in there,” Pearce recalled. “Where there are 7-8 coaches, there was only one. At that point I kind of knew something was happening. (I) kind of ran through the scenario, what was going on, said ‘There has been a lot of speculation with the Califf thing.’ He said it was a completely separate issue. Then I knew I was really getting traded at that point.
“He just let me know that they accepted a trade for me to go to New York. They thanked me, I said thank you, shook hands, and that was pretty much the whole conversation.”
Pearce is no stranger to sudden trades. The young American defender was shipped off just last season in a surprise move from FC Dallas to Chivas USA. He dealt with the difficulties of uprooting his life from one location to the next. That experience prepared him for his move to New York.
“It’s easier, because I had less things to worry about coming here,” he said. “In LA, I was renting everything and I cut down my life and all the possessions I had from Dallas to get to LA because everything was a lot smaller in LA. To come here, I didn’t own a house, didn’t have to worry about any of that. It was an easy transition.
“I got to speak to Erik Soler and Hans (Backe) yesterday, and they both welcomed me and said they were excited to have me and that they’ve been a fan of me since my time back in Europe and they thought I could be a good addition.”
Pearce first got to know the duo during a team meal prior to last season’s MLS All-Star game at Red Bull Arena. There, he sat alongside Backe and the coaching staff, interacting with them for the very first time.
Helping in his transition is former FC Dallas teammate Dax McCarty, who picked him up from the airport en route to meeting his new club.
“Dax is a good guy," Pearce said. "I know Dax quite well. We’ve been roommates on the road, roommates on the national team, played together in Dallas, and he made this transition really easy so far.
“That’s always a huge thing in helping integrate yourself into the squad is having somebody be that buffer that helps you get on a personal level with everybody, which in turn helps you play on the field together. The quicker I get to know everybody on a personal level, the more comfortable we are going to feel around each other.”
Early conversations with the coaching staff have indicated that the team will likely use Pearce as an all-purpose utility player, as no solid position has been established for him in the long term. Still, the 27-year-old American leftback relishes the opportunity and the challenge New York represents.
“There is no time to sit and think about what my time was like (at Chivas),” Pearce explained. “I’m excited to be here and hopefully we can do great things while I’m here. I like the fire. Everybody wants to play. Hopefully, if I do get a chance to play, I can do well and help the team get a result.”