Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Chivas about to bolster backline again
By Scott French
By March 19, when it kicks off its Major League Soccer campaign, Chivas USA might have the deepest backline in the league. Another defender is on his way.
The Goats are finalizing a loan agreement to bring in rising Ghanaian left back Seth Owusu, and head coach Robin Fraser expects him in camp sometime this week.
Owusu, who will be 22 next week, has been playing for Kessben FC in Ghana's Glo Premier League. The club's license was purchased in December by Medeama SC, and the defender has since been on trials in France and Poland without attracting a contract offer.
“He's a player we have great interest in,” Fraser said after training Tuesday morning, the Goats' first session since returning from a weeklong camp in Arizona. “He's probably one of the two best outside defenders I've seen while scouting professionally in the last, what, four years?
“He's also a very capable central defender, so I think he adds some athleticism and experience. … I feel like physically he's going to be another strong defender for us.”
Owusu appears on the fringe of Ghana's national team. He was called into the Black Stars' camp before an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Sudan in October but did not play in the match.
The deal would expire in December; no word whether there will be options to extend to loan or purchase the contract. It sounds like Medeama will be holding out for bigger bucks than MLS will spend.
“We are confident this will help the young chap gain experience for a bigger move to Europe,” Medeama president Moses Armah said on his club’s Web site. “This is only the beginning, and we will to wish him well at his new club. He has the experience and knows what is ahead of him, so he can’t disappoint. We expect him to come back better than he’s leaving us.”
Chivas just acquired Heath Pearce, a left-footed outside back (who can play on the right or in midfield, too), a week ago, and it signed center back Andrew Boyens about a week before that. Center back Jimmy Conrad, of course, arrived in December's re-entry draft, and Zarek Valentin, who can play inside or on the right, was the Goats' top pick in last month's draft. Colombian right back Jimmy Asprilla is in camp, and there's a good chance he'll be signed, too. Three backline starters return, although Mariano Trujillo likely will play, when he plays, in midfield.
“At the end of the day, we're trying to bring in as many good players as we can,” Fraser said. “And we're not Chelsea or Real Madrid, where we have the luxury of plucking every single player we want. So when we get good players, we have to bring them in.”
ACROSS THE BACK?: What might Chivas' starting backline look like? Maybe … Asprilla on the right, Conrad and Owusu in the middle, Pearce on the left. Or Owusu on the left with Valentin in the middle with Conrad, and Pearce in midfield. Or Valentin on the right, with Conrad and Michael Umaña in the middle. Or Conrad and Owusu in the middle and Ante Jazic on the left flank.
Fraser said he won't hesitate to use Owusu in the middle.
“He's a very good central defender,” he said. “We look at him as another player with some versatility and athleticism, and obviously in this league team speed is important, and everything we can do to improve that, we think, is a plus.”
ALSO JOINING CAMP: Local Armenian forward/midfielder Artur Aghasyan, who was in camp last season with the Goats, joined the group Monday. The longtime Ventura County Fusion favorite, a cousin of former RSL striker Yura Movsisyan (now based in Russia), trialed at Real Salt Lake when Fraser was on staff.
“I saw him a couple years ago … there's something to his game, for sure, and we [at RSL] liked him,” Fraser said. “He at the time wasn't probably quite ready for that team, but it's a couple years later. He's certainly a player who has some physical tools, so I'm curious to see how he's developed in the last three years. … I haven't seen him in a couple years, but last time I saw him, I liked him.”
FITTING IN: Pearce, acquired in a trade from FC Dallas, says he's feeling at home already with the club, that “the guys have been real welcoming to me” and that there's “a positive vibe in the team; it's like a family.”
The veteran defender, a natural left back with U.S. national team and European club experience, saw his first action with Chivas in Friday's victory over Vancouver in Casa Grande, Ariz. He found himself “surprisingly more fit than I thought I was.”
“That was my first official-type game since my [calf] injury last year, so it had been awhile,” he said. “I kind of forgot about that for awhile, but after the game, I realized that was my first game in three, four months.”
He says he “felt a little out of sync at times, not knowing where guys were going, not knowing runs and understanding [how my new teammates moved], but that'll come with repetitions in training and getting to know all the guys.”
WORTH NOTING: Forward Justin Braun is ready to train fully, Fraser said. “Leading scorer on the team last year, and I've seen him play for 1½ sessions,” Fraser said. “We're looking forward to seeing him participate and get into the mix. We're four weeks in, so he's definitely a little behind the eight-ball, but we want to get him healthy and involved as soon as possible.” … Midfielder Simon Elliott is day-to-day with a minor knee injury. … Blair Gavin's ailing hamstring probably means he won't be available for Friday's scrimmage against D.C. United at Home Depot Center.