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Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Heath Pearce: 'I thought it was paranoia'

By Scott French

We caught up with new Chivas USA defender Heath Pearce on Wednesday from Arizona, where he had just finished his first training with the club, which on Tuesday acquired him from FC Dallas for allocation money.

Here's some of the conversation:

Were you surprised when you heard?

I kind of had a feeling something was happening the last few days. I thought it was just a little bit of paranoia, something like that. I'd been told two weeks prior they were not going to trade me, that they had plans and I should rest assured I won't be traded. I was told they expected big things from me.

So in that sense, it was a bit of a shock to hear. But I'm really excited about this.

Chivas has a coaching staff of defenders: Robin Fraser, Greg Vanney, Carlos Llamosa. Are you excited about that?You look at Robin Fraser, he obviously was one of the better defenders in the league of all-time. Greg Vanney as well. And Robin is coming from [Real] Salt Lake, where they play an attacking style. He has quite an understanding of the game -- I got that from our meeting -- and I'm excited to play in his attacking [scheme].

You come in as a defender, and the two main coaches [Fraser and Vanney] are former players at the international level. It's a great opportunity for me to come in, learn a lot and develop.

You leave an MLS Cup runner-up, a club that is expected to contend again this year, for a team that is rebuilding nearly from scratch. It's a very different situation at Chivas USA.Definitely, and I think the attitude because of that is really positive. Everything's been forgotten in the past, everyone is focused on the present and future. … You look at Dallas, they've lost at this point four contributors, three starters [Pearce and midfielders Dax McCarty and Atiba Harris] and the other started a lot of the season [top scorer Jeff Cunningham]. They're not the same team as last year. It's a give-and-take type of league.

What are your expectations with Chivas? How do you see yourself fitting in?I'm not sure. One of the outside back positions, hopefully competing to start on either side. I'm not sure of their exact plans. I'm just trying to get transitioned as quickly as possible and make a case for myself for a starting position.

Do you have a preference to play on the left, as you have most of your career, or on the right?Not particularly, no. I wasn't a right back prior to last year, but I'm comfortable on both sides. At this point we're trying to find out -- if and when the team needs me on the field.

You are left-footed?Yes. Left-handed, too.

Have you spent much time in Los Angeles?I've been to national team camps that were a month long. Three January camps: one under Bruce [Arena, now the Galaxy's coach] and two under Bob [Bradley, the U.S. coach]. I've spent a decent amount of time here there, and I have a lot of friends -- a lot of friends from UCLA.

The situation now is sort out my place. I bought a house in Dallas, but I hope to get settled [in L.A.] as soon as possible. Something in the South Bay that's convenient.

THEN THERE'S THIS: Pearce denied a rift with FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman while acknowledging that he thought he was ready to play in the MLS Cup final, in which FC Dallas lost to Colorado, and expressing dismay with some of the coach's comments about him.

“I personally felt strong for the final,” Pearce said. “There were a few comments [Hyndman] made at the final and [saying] that the reason I didn't got to national team camp [in January] was because I wasn't ready, but he wasn't there when the conversation with Bob Bradley took place.

“I never had any problems there. I worked by hardest there. I'm thankful for my time there.”

Hyndman, apparently, didn't want to part with Pearce, but the club needed the savings against the salary cap. Pearce made $198,000 in base salary last year and $207,500 in guaranteed compensation, according to figures released last summer by the MLS Players Union.

“We try to keep the coaches out of the direct line with these things. But Schellas did argue and fight for holding onto an experienced member of his squad,” FC Dallas technical director Barry Gorman said, according to ESPN Dallas' 3rd Degree blog. “Schellas is looking at his squad and who he has available, and Heath was an important part of the squad last year. So moving forward, yes, he would like to keep him. But the reality is what we spoke about before.”

And “what we spoke about before” was roster flexibility and cap space.