Ch.-USA: McKenzie ready for his shot

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
9:36
PM PT

CARSON -- Rauwshan McKenzie has patiently awaited his chance, and he's willing to wait a little longer, if need be.

The 25-year-old center back, Chivas USA's newest signing, mostly has sat and watched through his first four Major League Soccer seasons, and a fine showing in the Goats' preseason camp the past month or so probably isn't going to give him a regular starting gig this year either.

But it's going to give him the opportunity to play ample minutes, and with that, who knows?

“I think if you look at his career, if he may have landed in some other places, maybe it would have been a little different, because he does have a lot of ability ...,” Chivas head coach Robin Fraser said following training Monday at Home Depot Center. “I think he's definitely got the ability to be a good defender in MLS, and we're glad we have the opportunity to have him.”

McKenzie was a raw apprentice in his first two seasons, with Kansas City, where Jimmy Conrad was the leader in the back. He spent the past two years as cover for Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers, the best center-back tandem in MLS.

All told, he's played in just 11 league games, 20 first-team competitive matches and 21 reserve-league games. And he figures to back up Heath Pearce and Colombian newcomer John Alexander Valencia in central defense this year.

“Those guys are more experienced than I am,” said McKenzie, who put pen to paper Friday afternoon. “So I just try to learn from them every day in practice. I've obviously got to keep working hard and hope when the opportunity comes that I'm ready to go.”

Fraser has faith. He coached McKenzie at Real Salt Lake in 2010 and invited him for a preseason trial when RSL declined the option on his contract in December. The decision to keep him was made after two weeks.

What has McKenzie gained by his association with top defenders, such as Olave, Borchers and Fraser, who was a two-time MLS Defender of the Year?

“I just think the reinforcement of the ideas of the decision, the correct decision,” Fraser said. “He's been around me for long enough, been around those guys for awhile. He has a good understand what we as central defenders need to be doing, decisions we need to be making.”

WORTH NOTING: Colombian midfielder Jose Manuel Najera says in a video posted on YouTube by television station Canal Cartagena that he is joining Chivas USA. Najera, 23, has played for Real Cartagena since 2006. ... Chivas has three new trialists in camp, but the club isn't identifying two of them -- an attacking midfielder from Colombia and wide attacker from Brazil -- until it has filed “discovery” claims with the league Tuesday. MLS's offices were closed Monday. ... The other trialist is 6-foot-2 forward Karo Okiomah, 22, who scored 29 goals in four years at High Point University. The Texan was taken by Houston in last month's supplemental draft but was released from the Dynamo's camp. ... Chivas' 10-game MLS Reserve League slate begins March 12, the day after the league opener, against the Galaxy on L.A.'s training field. The Goats' home games (fields undertermined): April 23 vs. Seattle, June 8 vs. San Jose, June 18 vs. Portland, June 25 vs. Vancouver, and July 10 vs. the Galaxy. All begin at 11 a.m. ... Trialist Cesar Romero, who is contract negotiations with Chivas, attended his former club Tijuana Revolucion's playoff-clinching victory Sunday night over the Anaheim Bolts in the indoor PASL Pro.

ELSEWHERE: News around MLS ...

  • D.C. United signed 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario to a new contract that, sources told the league's website, will make him he club's best-paid player but won't give him Designated Player status after allocation money pays down his cap hit.

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