CINCINNATI -- When FC Cincinnati announced the signing of Josu Currais last month, it created a buzz over the addition of a player with a background coming up through FC Barcelona's youth academy.
More than two weeks went by before the left back and midfielder arrived in Cincinnati, and he quietly came off the bench to appear in the first two games of June.
Now, after making his first start last Saturday in a 2-2 draw with Charleston, it's a little easier to see what makes Currais so special. The 24-year-old Spaniard factored into both goals, by direct and indirect assists on fantastic service, and is likely to see more time in FC Cincinnati's lineup moving forward.
The second-year United Soccer League club hosts St. Louis FC on Saturday to begin a stretch of three games in eight days, including the U.S. Open Cup fifth-round match against Chicago Fire FC on June 28.
"You can definitely tell he was trained in the Barcelona way," FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch said. "His technique and his touch are fantastic. I've had the pleasure of coaching a few players who were trained in the Barcelona academy, and you can see instantaneously where they come from."
Currais, a native of Girona who has spent his senior career in Spain, Italy, Poland, Finland, India and the U.S., honed his talent as a youth in FC Barcelona's La Masia Academy, where he helped his team to three championships at the U16, U17 and U18 levels between 2009 and 2011. It was there he developed in the "tiki-taka" Barca style that emphasizes short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels and maintaining possession.
FC Cincinnati saw some of the benefits from that in how he played the ball to teammates Saturday. He delivered a perfect free kick to Harrison Delbridge, which Delbridge headed toward goal and Djiby Fall finished off for a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute. Later with FC Cincinnati down 2-1, Currais sent in a cross from the left corner to set up Andrew Wiedeman's juggling equalizer in the 80th minute.
"He's technically very sound," teammate and roommate Kadeem Dacres said. "His awareness on the field, he knows what he's going to do when he gets the ball. He has a very high soccer IQ, and his left foot is very good. I wouldn't be surprised to see him score on some free kicks as the year progresses. He's very good on those."
Currais said he hoped to make an impact right away, despite his mid-season arrival. He was just finishing up the season with Extremedura UD in the Spanish third division when he signed, and it took two weeks to get his visa.
The 5-foot-6 lefty got to town June 1 and headed to Rochester with FC Cincinnati two days later for his first appearance, a 15-minute outing in a 1-0 loss to the Rhinos. He also came off the bench in the 64th minute in a 1-1 draw with Charlotte on June 10 before becoming fully incorporated last week.
"I came here with the mentality to play as soon as possible," Currais said. "Two days here, and I got 15 minutes to play and I was happy. I was excited to help the team as much as I can. I hope I continue contributing and helping the team."
Koch said he wanted to integrate Currais as soon as possible, and the fact that he plays multiple positions as a defender and midfielder makes it easier to give him minutes. He had no doubt Currais would fit in, based on his level of experience in multiple countries and his charismatic personality.
Currais is known to spend time speaking his native Spanish with teammate Marco Dominguez but is fluent in English as well and seems to get along with everyone.
"He's been fitting in well with the group," Dacres said. "Sometimes it takes other players a little longer to get acclimated to a new environment and new situations, but I think he's come in fast and he's definitely contributed so far since he's been here.
"He's a fun roommate. We're always chillin', making moves sometimes, so it's good. He needs to improve on his cooking skills. They aren't all the way there yet, and his FIFA (video) game (skills), as well. He's always losing in FIFA, but he's a fun guy and he fits right in."
This isn't Currais' first experience playing in the U.S. He spent time with former USL side Wilmington Hammerheads in 2016, making four appearances, before returning to Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters. He finished the 2016-17 season on loan to Extremadura.
"I knew Cincinnati was a much bigger club than Wilmington because some of my old teammates in Wilmington told me and I saw pictures and I spoke with the coach before I came here, so I knew it was a very professional club," Currais said.
Currais said he's learned something from all of his experiences playing in various environments and different systems of play. He soaks in the culture, food and language of every country he's in and tries to implement the various styles of soccer into his own game.
Of all his experiences, his time in India seems to have the most profound impact, though. Two weeks before he came to Cincinnati, he got his entire left arm tattooed in honor of his time there. At the top is a picture of Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god, known as the remover of obstacles and god of wisdom and success. His forearm features a Royal Bengal tiger, which is the national animal of India.
"Where I lived in India, this is the religion most people follow, so I made it for them because I had an amazing experience there," Currais said. "I have a lot of people following me there, so I did it for them."
His right arm, also full of slightly more faded tattoos, has been a work in progress over the last four years since leaving his homeland to begin his professional career with Finland's Seinajoen Jalkapallokerho in 2013.
The various names, dates and pictures represent his family -- his way of bringing them with him everywhere he goes. Near his shoulder is an interpretation of his grandmother, for example, and his wrist features a rose representing his mother, whom he calls the flower of his life.
"It's not easy to leave them and live 9,000 kilometers away with the different times because it is seven hours less here than Spain, so it's hard," Currais said. "Anything I can do to remind them and be in contact with them, I will do it."
Currais said he has options to go back to Spain or India next season but hasn't thought much beyond his contract with FC Cincinnati. All he knows right now is he wants to do whatever he can to stay on the field.
"I want to keep trying to play as long as I can, to roll as high as I can, and that's all," Currais said. "My life is football, and without it, I'm nothing, because I didn't study. Football is everything I have."