BONGOKUHLE Hlongwane aims to grasp his opportunity with both hands when he arrives at USA’s Minnesota United, who he recently signed for from Maritzburg United.
The 21-year-old has seen a few South African players return home quickly because they have failed to adjust to life abroad.
And as the new player at the Major League Soccer club, his first achievement will be to listen to his new teammates and coaches.
He said that should be the first step as it will “make things easy”, having signed a three-year deal with a one-year option to renew with the Loons.
Hlongwane is still in Pietermaritzburg training on his own as Minnesota are working on getting his paperwork sorted out before he can join them.
“I’ll need to understand my teammates as quickly as possible and that will make things easy for me,” said Hlongwane, who featured in 56 games for Maritzburg and scored eight goals along with seven assists.
“Once I get that (understanding) with my teammates, it will open doors for me to play and play the football they want and the club want.”
Minnesota coach Adrian Heath has described Hlongwane as an “explosive player” and someone “who has a game changing pace”.
“The one thing we’ve spoken about is getting someone with a game changing pace on this roster (squad),” said Heath.
“He has an absolutely explosive pace. We love his raw talents, but his football IQ is exceptional. Ask any defender what scares them and who’re the hardest players to mark, it’s someone with intelligent movement and pace and we feel he possesses both of these qualities.”
Hlongwane said hearing this from his new coach was music to his ears.
“It meant a lot and that means they have been following me, and my style of play will fit in well in the team. So the coach sees me as a missing link in his teammates,” he said.
In the United States, Hlongwane will join a list of Mzansi players in various tiers. Kamohelo Mokotjo (Cincinnati, MLS), Tsiki Ntsabeleng (FC Dallas, MLS), Brogan Shrimpton (Detroit City, USL Championship), Lebo Moloto (FC Tulsa, USL Championship), Lindo Mfeka (Oakland Roots, USL Championship), Robinson Mashobane (San Diego Loyal, USL Championship), Nazeem Bartman (Des Moines Menace, USL League Two) and Wade Coetzee at Portland Timbers III (USL League Two).
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