Fire defender Carlos Terán only got a brief taste of Major League Soccer after arriving in Chicago late last season.
The Turbo, Colombia native made two substitute appearances for a total of 14 minutes prior to the regular season’s end, and while it’s a small sample size to be sure, it was enough to help the 20-year-old start shaping his approach to his first full season in the league.
“I learned that it's a very competitive league and it really makes you grow, both in terms of maturity and on the sporting side of things,” Terán told media via Club translator Elizabeth Sanchez after training on Thursday. “You have to really be up to speed and be up to par so that you can compete at this level and just keep working hard so you can be at this same level and put in good work and compete day-to-day.”
Terán was acquired from Envigado FC on Aug. 21, but -- with his country’s borders closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic -- he didn’t arrive in Chicago and join the team in training until Oct. 21.
Just a week later, he made his Club debut when he came in for Álvaro Medrán in the 78th minute of the Fire’s 2-1 defeat to the Philadelphia Union on Oct. 28.
“Last year I had a few months -- well, actually it was more like a few days to join the team and get in with the rhythm of the team,” he said. “This year, I was able to start from the beginning, do the full preseason, the full year with the team, and I just am going to give it my all and do my best every day to make the team better and go day-by-day and just prepare and getting better.”
Terán also came on as a sub for Mauricio Pineda in the final minutes of the Fire’s final match of the season against New York City FC on Nov. 8.
Now four days into preseason camp, the familiarity Terán was able to gain with the league and his teammates during the last few weeks of 2020 is helping him push the defensive group around him to raise their collective level of play for 2021.
“It's a healthy competition, and with the more experienced players, I make them better and they make me better,” he said. “So we just have to come in and learn as much as we can. With (Francisco) Calvo and Johan (Kappelhof), we just have to learn and take everything they have to teach because they are experienced players, and we have a lot to learn from them so that we can make the whole team even better.”
Terán’s fight for playing time among a crowded and seasoned defensive unit will undoubtedly heat up in the coming weeks ahead of MLS opening weekend on April 17.
For now, the expanding group of similarly-aged players and Spanish speakers surrounding the young defender are helping keep the intensity contained to the training ground.
“It's a great environment here at the Fire,” he said. “There are a lot of young players, and with that group it's just a great environment. We get along really well, even players like Nick Slonina who is Polish, he speaks Spanish very well, and Andre Reynolds, we get along really well and we understand each other very well and we support each other a lot.”
“We are just trying to make ourselves and each other better and go in every day so that we can make the group better.”