CHIVAS USA: Kennedy fighting for job
CARSON -- If any returning Chivas USA player can be guaranteed a starting spot, it's got to be Dan Kennedy, who was a deserved selection as the club's 2011 MVP after a marvelous campaign in the Goats' nets.
Not so fast. Chivas has five goalkeepers in camp, possess the Major League Soccer rights to a sixth, and head coach Robin Fraser and his staff figure competition in the preseason camp will determine which three (or four) make the roster.
Veteran Zach Thornton and Mexican loaner Sergio Arias, Kennedy's backups last season, are gone, and the Goats have signed Tim Melia, a backup the past two seasons in Real Salt Lake when he wasn't on loan to lower-division sides. Kevin Guppy, an MLS pool goalkeeper the last three years who has trained extensively with Chivas and was on the roster after Kennedy suffered a torn biceps tendon in August 2010, is on trial, and so is Patrick McLain, who just completed his college career at Cal Poly.
The Goats took UCLA's Brian Rowe, a second-team All-American, in Tuesday's MLS supplemental draft, but he's on trial in Finland with VPS Vaasa.
Kennedy, 29, a former UC Santa Barbara star from Yorba Linda, was a revelation last year, bouncing back from the biceps injury and supplanting Thornton, a two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year (the second time in 2009 with Chivas), two games into the season. He didn't leave the field the rest of the season.
“Coming off last year, you have to say Dan's No. 1 ...,” Fraser said after some prodding. “It's a battle between everyone for all the spots. We have a number of keepers in, and the competition is what we want to have in order to push everyone as hard as we can.”
That's fine with Kennedy, who joined Chivas in 2008 after stints with the MetroStars, Puerto Rico Islanders and Chilean club Municipal Iquique.
“That's the way it's been my whole career, wherever I've been,” he said following Chivas' fitness session -- nothing but running -- Thursday at Home Depot Center. “As a player, you should never expect anything. You have to work hard for everything you earn. [The competition for jobs] should spread through the team. You need to be on top of your game to be on the field, and that's what we're going to need from everybody to be a winning club.”
FITTER, HAPPIER: This first week of camp has been primarily about fitness, although the team has worked on technical and tactical issues during, especially, afternoon sessions. Kennedy likes how things look so far.
“I think with having an offseason in which we knew what we were coming into preseason with, with coaches and players, personnel, that the guys stepped up a level this offseason and came in more fit," Kennedy said. "So we're definitely further along than we were last year physically, and, hopefully, that just helps us on the tactical side of things.”
Fraser and chief assistant Greg Vanney weren't hired until last January, so the Goats entered camp last year still trying to figure things out. This year they started preparations with a distinct plan.
“I think the coaches have a better idea of what we need, what our shortcomings were from last season, so that will help us move forward. And regardless of who's here, what we really want to do is build a really competitive environment, right? So that every position, we're working and competing for jobs.
“That's what this is about. If we want to be a top team in this league, that's where we need to go with it. And I think that's where we're headed.”
WORTH NOTING: Former Galaxy captain Peter Vagenas, a UCLA alum from Pasadena, has joined Chivas USA's preseason preparations, and his status could become more permanent in the coming days. The central midfielder, 33, was with L.A. from 2000 through 2008, then played with Seattle in 2009-10 and Vancouver last year. ... Three of the supplemental draft picks have joined camp: Monmouth defender R.J. Allen, San Diego State defender Daniel Steres and Cal State Fullerton midfielder Kevin Venegas. The other two -- Rowe and German defender Fabian Kling from NCAA Division II champion Fort Lewis -- aren't expected to arrive until next week, Fraser said. ... Ecuadoran midfielders Oswaldo Minda and Miller Bolaņos, Colombian defender John Alexander Valencia and returning Brazilian defender David Junior Lopes, all awaiting visas, also might not join the camp until next week. Valencia's signing has not yet been announced.