Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Owusu's in camp, but he isn't official yet
By Scott French
Seth Owusu arrived in L.A. last weekend and immediately joined Chivas USA in training -- he went directly from the airport to a session, coach Robin Fraser reported -- but he's not officially with the team yet and won't be until his paperwork clears Major League Soccer's desk.
It took more than a month for approval to arrive on loan deals bringing in goalkeeper Sergio Arias and winger Francisco "Panchito" Mendoza, a former Goats regular, from Guadalajara, the parent club. Word came down this week on both, and the club finally announced their acquisitions Wednesday.
Mendoza is a likely starter, and Arias figures to back up returning starter Zach Thornton -- but let's wait and see. Club president/managing partner Antonio Cué called Arias, at 22 one of Mexico's most highly regarded young keepers, "the future of Chivas USA" at a uniform-unveiling party in Los Angeles last month.
The agreement to bring in Owusu, a 22-year-old Ghanaian defender coming on loan from Tarkwa-based Medeama FC, was completed several weeks ago, and he had been awaiting his visa and other paperwork since.
Owusu, whose physique and athleticism make quick impressions, trained with Chivas' reserves Saturday while the first team played a friendly against UCLA, and he trained with the full team for the first time Tuesday. Fraser, who had scouted him for at least a year, is just starting to get a sense of what Owusu will provide.
"He's traveled a long way," Fraser said. "I think it's tough whenever you travel that long and immediately get into a training session. ... I think he's still getting himself adjusted. He's pretty quiet, but he's pretty intense. He came in with a good attitude, wants to do whatever he can to help the team. He listens and works hard. That's pretty much all I can tell you so far."
Owusu, a burgeoning Ghanaian national-teamer who has experience at left back and in central defense, figures to partner Jimmy Conrad in the middle of the backline, forcing Costa Rican defender Michael Umaña into a reserve role.
Conrad's first impression: "I was like, 'Man, that is a man-mountain.' He's a big dude. He's quick and strong -- it's not even fair, the gene pool he's in and the one I'm playing in."
Fraser had described Owusu to Conrad and others in glowing terms, and Conrad said he's "everything I thought he'd be. ... He's just got to get more comfortable, and I'm sure he'll get a little more vocal, and, obviously, when you play in the back, communication is a big part of it. So I expect that to come slowly as he eases himself in the group."
Owusu, who trialed in Europe over the winter, says he's looking forward to playing for Chivas -- but the club clearly is a steppingstone.
"When I first hear I'm coming here, I feel very great," he said. "Also, USA's a nice place to be, so I tell myself after here I will see myself in a very big club in Europe." But first: "I want to help Chivas achieve what they want."
Chivas spokesman David Lindholm says the club expects to officially announce Owusu before the week is up, and the club is confident his, Arias' and Mendoza's International Transfer Certificates will be in hand by the March 19 opener against Sporting Club Kansas City at Home Depot Center.
PADILLA GONE: Jesus Padilla is no longer in Chivas's plans, and the club will announce Wednesday night or Thursday that his contract has not been renewed, a club official said. The 24-year-old forward/midfielder, who was born in San Jose but moved to Mexico as a teen and emerged from Guadalajara's youth system, started 25 of 39 games with the Goats the past two seasons. Last season he played in 26 games, with 14 starts, and scored six goals, second-best on the team.
Padilla was surplus after the Goats boosted their depth and talent during the offseason and Mariano Trujillo, the starting right back last season, was moved to midfield last month.
His departure will leave Chivas with 28 players, and interim general manager Jose Domene is looking to place midfielders Bryan de la Fuente, 18, and Cesar Zamora, 19, in loan deals, so that's 26. The Goats are expected to carry 28 players, and there are four trialists in camp, with midfielder Guillermo "Memo" Torres, the younger brother of U.S. national-teamer Jose Francisco Torres, looking most likely to win a deal.
WORTH NOTING: Chivas' U.S. Open Cup qualifying opener against Portland will be played March 29 at the University of Portland's Merlo Field. Think of it as a homecoming for defender Heath Pearce, who played college ball for the Pilots. … Midfielder Simon Elliott and defender Andrew Boyens have been called up by New Zealand's national team for friendlies March 25 at China and March 29 at Japan. Vancouver Whitecaps rookie defender Michael Boxall (UC Santa Barbara), who is uncapped, also is on the 30-man preliminary roster, which will be trimmed to 22 before the matches. ... Chivas plays its final preseason friendly Saturday night at FC Dallas.