VANCOUVER, BC - He may only be 5-foot-4, but Vancouver Whitecaps FC defensive midfielder Andrés Cubas doesn’t shy away from a challenge, whether it be on or off the pitch.
On the pitch, the Paraguayan international aims to win the ball back for the ‘Caps by getting stuck in with tackles or interceptions.
Off the pitch, Cubas looks to make the most of the family time he has with his partner, Fausti, and their son, Beltran, as they face the challenge of adjusting to a new city, culture and language.
Both are different types of challenges, but Cubas has enjoyed the thrill and happiness that the two have offered, no matter the size of each.
On April 28, Cubas was unveiled as the ‘Caps newest midfield anchor, signing an MLS Designated Player contract through June 2026, with an option for the final six months of the year.
The native of Aristóbulo del Valle, Argentina underwent his medicals in Los Angeles, California and on June 11 finally touched the grass at the National Soccer Development Centre at UBC.
Cubas would go on to make his Whitecaps FC debut three days later against Seattle Sounders FC as a substitute.
In the ‘Caps following match, a road tilt against Western Conference foes FC Dallas, Cubas made his first start for the club and put in a man of the match performance in a memorable 2-0 win.
The midfielder recorded two successful tackles, two duels won, four interceptions, five recoveries and 81% passing accuracy, all signs of what was to come from the Paraguayan.
A little less than a month later, the 'Caps found themselves in a tightly-contested affair with eventual MLS Cup champions Los Angeles FC at BC Place.
The Blue and White pushed on all match trying to find the opener, with Cubas playing a key role in shutting down the visitor's attack.
In the 89th minute, the 'Caps found the game-winner through their newest Designated Player.
Cubas intercepted a pass at the top of the LAFC box and immediately unleashed a right-footed strike into the bottom corner, sending BC Place into a frenzy and giving his team all three points.
"Honestly, it was a very beautiful moment because the way the game had gone, the goal coming in the last minutes to give us the victory against a great team like LAFC, it was on our field with our fans, I felt very happy, I enjoyed it lots," recalled Cubas.
"Obviously, I'd like to score more but in all seriousness when you do score, you have to enjoy it and it was one of the best moments since I arrived here."
Following both matches, Cubas received league-wide recognition for his performances, as he was named to the MLS Team of the Week for Weeks 15 and 18.
Fast forward to the Canadian Championship Final on July 26 against Toronto FC, the midfielder once again shone brightly as he played the full 90 minutes, played a key role in keeping Toronto's stars at bay, and buried his penalty kick attempt in the shootout to help secure the 'Caps their second Voyageurs Cup.
However, Cubas' early days in Vancouver weren't all smooth sailings, as he had to endure the challenge of adjusting to a new city and lifestyle without Fausti and Beltran.
In the week leading up to 'Caps home match against Houston Dynamo FC on August 5, Cubas was set to welcome Fausti and Beltran to Vancouver, as they had both received clearance to come into Canada.
Unfortunately, Cubas tested positive for COVID-19 and was ruled out for the match against Houston, while also preventing him from giving his family a proper welcome to Vancouver.
Despite the hefty size of the challenge, the Paraguayan recovered and was finally able to begin this new journey in his life with his family right beside him.
Having his family with him gave him a sense of tranquility as he was able to continue adapting to MLS without having to worry about when his family would join him in Canada.
His teammates and coaches also helped make the adjustment much easier.
"Since I arrived, everyone's treated me really good, they welcomed me in a really good manner. My teammates, the coaching staff, they gave me the confidence to adapt quickly," said Cubas.
"We have a fantastic group, it's really good and you get the feeling that you want to come in everyday to work because the environment is very good."
Despite the language barrier, Cubas hasn't shied away from trying his best to communicate with his English-speaking teammates.
He's often been seen helping out youngsters with any questions they may have, especially his fellow midfielders, which also helps bring out his leadership qualities.
"For example, I was talking with Seba [Berhalter] and Vasco [Fry] about some moments on the field and the plays I would make, so obviously I'm also here to help and always give a hand to my teammates on the roster or the youngsters on the second team and the academy", said Cubas.
"The language is very important, I'm studying it, I'm trying to incorporate some of the language as quick as I can to not only help youngsters but help the entire roster on the field."
Cubas, like any new player in MLS, also had to accustom himself to the physicality, the travel and the time change of the league, as well as coming up against new players, playing in new stadiums, and facing off against new teams with different styles of tactics.
"I've noticed it's a physical league, a league where you have to be 100 per cent physically ready to be at the level that's needed and honestly, it wasn't too hard for me to adapt given how happy and glad I am to be here and playing game after game, I adapted more and more."
But he also hasn't let that affect the characteristics of his playing style, taking pride in each moment he wins the ball back for the 'Caps.
"It's a sense of satisfaction, every time I win the ball back, or try to recover it, I do it for the good of the team so we can play with the ball, so we can counter-attack," described Cubas.
"I do enjoy that job I have to win the ball back, to give balance to the team, it's something I've always done in my career."
Five months on from making his 'Caps debut, Cubas finished the season having started 19 of his 20 appearances across all competitions and leading the team in tackles won with 36 and interceptions with 34 in MLS play.
He'll now look to build on from that in 2023, with a total of four competitions on the horizon for the Blue and White.
"In 2023, personally, I'll try to always be at the maximum to do the best I can, to keep growing as a player, as a person, to help wherever I can to continue taking this club to the top," said Cubas.
"As a team, obviously for all of us to be pulling to the same side, it's going to be a long year with lots of games, lots of competitions. So from the start of preseason we'll have to prepare ourselves in the best way possible so we can fight as we did this year and finish as high as we can in all the competitions, but also as a team strengthen ourselves and grow even more."
Off the field, Cubas is also excited to explore some of Vancouver during the offseason and continue his new journey with his family.
"My family and I are very glad. It's a great city, honestly we're very happy, [we're] just enjoying the moment and trying to take advantage of it to the maximum."
No matter the size of the challenge, whether it be one on or off pitch, the Paraguayan international has made the most out of each one he's faced while adjusting to life in Vancouver.