Seb Hines has revealed to MLSsoccer.com that former Middlesbrough teammate Kei Kamara played a fundamental role in convincing him to make the stateside switch to Orlando City SC.
Hines, 26, has joined the MLS expansion side from Boro on a six-month loan deal with a view to a permanent move, and is now set to line up alongside Brazil superstar and club captain Kaka when their inaugural top-flight season kicks off next month.
The defender still needed some advice ahead of his proposed transfer, however, and revealed that Columbus Crew striker Kei Kamara, who spent last season at the Riverside Stadium, was one of the first people he contacted.
“I asked Kei about the league, and he was all for it,” Hines said. “He said if I get the chance I should take it.
“I’ve been in England all my career and need a fresh start. The style of football might suit me better; it seems more composed and not like a tennis match with long balls, which you can get in the Championship.
“Everyone is starting to notice it is a massive opportunity to come over,” he added. “It is certainly a growing league, and if you have the opportunity to come in, it is massive for any player. With the quality of players over here, it is a great incentive to me. My friends can’t believe I’m playing with [Brazilian star] Kaka – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Hines fills an immediate need for Orlando, who have been desperate for a centre-back partner for former MLS Cup MVP Aurelien Collin since seeing a move for Brazilian Paulo Andre collapse at the last minute.
The Florida-based club had been scrambling for options after the veteran instead opted to return to his homeland with Cruzeiro but, with former Boro loanee Sean St Ledger also on trial at the moment, head coach Adrian Heath is now content with his defensive depth.
“Seb has been a really good pick up for us,” the former Everton forward said. “The things he has shown us relatively quickly are that he has good pace and presence. He is good on the ball and he can play at right back.
“We obviously had to scramble a bit once Andre wasn’t an option, but I’m very happy with the guys who have come in and we also have flexibility now.”
Hines has made 87 total appearances for Middlesbrough since coming up through the ranks to earn his first-team debut in 2007, with injuries continuing to hamper his first-team ambitions in recent seasons.
The West Yorkshire-native, who holds a US passport through his American father, has represented England from Under-16 to Under-19 level, but revealed in 2012 that he is more than open to donning the stars and stripes in the future.
"I definitely feel part of both countries,” he told American Soccer Now. “It’s not like I found some distant relative [in the U.S]. America has always been a massive part of my life. My father and grandparents are all very much American. I grew up with American sports even over here where they’re not as big as football. Football was the main sport growing up.”
Without doubt, if he impresses with Orlando over the coming months then he might just pop up on Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar.