CHIVAS: Bowen's Belgian lessons in play
He's not eligible to return to active duty until the summer transfer window opens June 27, and there's no assurance Chivas will bring him back, but he's out to show head coach Robin Fraser and his staff over the next month that he belongs with the Goats.
Fraser's excited to see how Bowen's game has grown.
“For us,” he said, “it's an opportunity to get a look at a player who's gotten some different experience, some growth experience, and see how he does with us. So we're anxious to get him back on the field.”
Bowen (Van Nuys), 21, was acquired from the Galaxy in December 2010 and played five first-team games for Chivas before KSV Roeselare on a season-long loan last August. He endured the kinds of ups and downs that build players and finished the season with a flourish.
“It was very good for me personally,” he told ESPN Los Angeles after Wednesday's session at Home Depot Center. “I had the chance to get out of the country, experience European football, even though it was the second division. It's been a long eight months. I learned a lot of things, and I think going forward that's definitely going to aid in my progression as a player.”
Bowen made 24 first-team appearances for Roeselare, 13 of them starts, and scored three goals in a league he described as “not as technically sound as here in MLS, but the aggressiveness, I think it's a little bit more over there. There's more challenges, people flying into them. It's just more ... I guess for lack of a better word, more cutthroat. The guys are definitely better here technically. The pace is faster here.”
He was better after winter break, making eight starts in the club's final 16 games -- including four of the final five games -- and scoring three goals.
Off the field, there wasn't a lot to do, and Bowen battled homesickness and loneliness.
“My social life didn't exist,” he said. “I was in a small town an hour outside of Brussels. Everything was quiet. It was completely different from living in Los Angeles, near downtown, where everything's going 100 miles an hour, to go [to Roeselare] and things are slowed down to practically 5 miles an hour.
“My life -- especially the first two months -- was basically going to training, coming home, relaxing. A lot of downtime. I didn't have a TV for two months, and no Internet. So it was a lot of reading and just reflecting.”
Most of his teammates lived away from the town, “so I was by myself, literally. ... There was no one, really, to spend time with. The life there was a little bit tough, but after I came home from Christmas break, going into the second part of the season, it was definitely a whole lot easier. I felt like the four months just flew by.
“Those are things that make you stronger: going through that, not having someone there for support, just dealing with it.”
It helped that he hooked up with former Chivas USA captain Sacha Kljestan, a regular with Belgian first-division champion RSC Anderlecht, which is based in Brussels. Bowen was with the Galaxy in 2009 and 2010, Kljestan's last season and a half with Chivas.
“We hung out in Brussels -- we did a magazine shoot there,” Bowen said. “It was good to see another American, just catch up and see what life is in the first division. I got a chance to tour the Anderlecht facility, and it's top-notch there.
“It was good to see somewhat of a familiar face. I'd never met Sacha before I went to Belgium -- I was at Galaxy, he was at Chivas, we saw each other [around HDC] a few times, never really said hi, so it's funny when you're actually in a situation where it doesn't matter about the club you're with, you're just another American and going through the same experience, as far as being abroad, away from home. He was very much welcoming. He's a good guy. He definitely made my time a little easier there.”
He returned to L.A. at the end of April, started working with Chivas' fitness coach last week, and was going at it on the field Wednesday. He knows he needs to demonstrate that he can help the team up top.
“We're going to see how I can contribute to the team,” Bowen said about his conversation with Fraser. “I'm definitely a part of the team, the team's plans right now, and it's a matter of getting out here, showing the coaching staff what I can do, simplifying my game, and going out there and working hard and try to help the team the best as possible. I think they need help, and I'm a young player still developing, and I think this is the best place for me to do that.”
Fraser and the technical staff will decide if he can contribute, but there are options. One might be another season in Belgium.
“I think [we will make] a decision that works for all of us, meaning us as a club and certainly Tristan and his future,” Fraser said. “I think having been [at Roeselare], the opportunity is probably there to go back to them. It's just a matter of seeing what works for all parties.”
WORTH NOTING: Midfielder Ben Zemanski won't be ready this week. He's coming back from a sprained MCL. ... The Barra Clasico, a tripleheader pitting Chivas' front office and two fan groups against the Galaxy's front office and two of their fan groups, will be played Thursday evening on HDC Field 5. The employees face off at 6, with Chivas' Black Army 1850 against the Galaxy's Riot Squad at 7:30, and Chivas' Union Ultras against the Galaxy's Angel City Brigade at 9. ... Chivas USA fans without access to Univision Deportes won't be able to watch the May 23 game at New York, and the new network is not widely available. The game was initially announced for Galavision, also affiliated with Univision, but switched when the new channel debuted last month. ... Chivas will play either the L.A. Blues (at Cal State Fullerton) or Ventura County Fusion (at a site to be determined) when it enters the U.S. Open Cup in the third round May 29. The Blues and Fusion meet Tuesday in Norco.