Marcos Mondaini celebrated his new pact with Chivas USA by playing atop a diamond midfield Tuesday and showing off his playmaking skills. Not too shabby, either, even if it led to nothing concrete in a 2-0 loss to Canada's under-23 national team.
“Basically, we threw him in there without much instruction at all,” Goats head coach Robin Fraser said. “We just wanted to see what his instincts were.”
“I think that he was very calm on the ball, very calm first touch, has good ideas in the attacking end.”
A fine start for the 26-year-old Argentine midfielder, who was acquired in a loan deal announced Tuesday from Uruguayan club CA Fenix. The move have Chivas a full allotment of 30 players, at least until 23-year-old defender Carlos Borja (Anaheim/Loara HS) was waived a few hours later.
The two biggest names among trialists are gone, too. Colombian defender Jimmy Asprilla fell victim to numbers -- too many backliners on the roster, not enough international spots to use on another -- and Trinidadian striker Stern John, the former MLS star who spent the past decade or so in England, just wasn't ready to go after surgery last year to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“You could see he had some very good moments,” Fraser said. “You could see he's Stern John -- he's as comfortable in the box as any forward. But physically he wasn't quite ready yet, and so we left it open-ended, saying we'd love to see him get healthy and see what happens at that point.”
MORE ON MONDAINI: He has two friends with MLS experience: Real Salt Lake forward Fabian Espindola and former Columbus forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto, whom he knew while at Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors.
“I know it's a hard league, very competitive,” he said Tuesday, and of the league's physical nature: “That's what I was talking about when I was talking to Fabian. In 2007, with Boca, we made a tour and played against MLS teams, and I noticed that here is very physical, very strong.” And, yes, he said, he can deal with it.
“He's good. Obviously, he has a lot of tactical awareness: He knows where he should be,” said Chivas defender Jimmy Conrad, who went the full 90 against the Canadians. “Athletically, he might run into problems. You know, he's not the biggest guy, and our league is built on athleticism. He's going to have to really use his brain to find space and to make a difference.”
Mondaini would like to be the playmaker -- Fraser says he doesn't yet know what the Argentine's best position will be -- and with Blair Gavin's hamstring strain jeopardizing his status for the March 19 opener against Kansas City, he might be the best choice.
Conrad was asked if Mondaini could be Chivas' playmaker.
“I think he can be one of many,” the veteran center back replied. “I don't know if he's the guy. I don't think he's our No. 10, but he's a guy that can complement. He can make the pass, the final pass, or he can also be the guy who keeps the play moving and makes the right decision, and the more of those guys you can have on the field, the better off the team's going to be.”
Fraser said he's been following Mondaini for about two years, after seeing tape of him playing for Boca Juniors' reserve team.
“At certain times, a player's value goes up and down based on how their most recent season went,” the coach said, “and most of the time I looked into him, he's either just gotten into a contract or he's been too expensive. The opportunity came up [to bring him in], and it seemed like a good opportunity for us.”
THE GAME: Chivas USA was all over the Canadians at Home Depot Center's track and field stadium, but its possession didn't always lead to chances, and when it did, the finishing was lacking. The Goats have scored just once in their past five games, but Fraser said he wasn't all that concerned.
“Actually thought today was a really, really good performance with the first group [that was on the field from 45 to 70 minutes],” Fraser said. “I think you're much more concerned if you're not creating chances, and certainly it felt like we could have scored several goals today. I think it was maybe our best 45 to 50 minutes we've seen all preseason.”
Conrad's take: “I think we created all different types of opportunities. We had corners, we had set pieces, we attacked from the flanks, we came down the middle, we combined, but the lack of a killer pass really hurt us.”
The Canadians got goals from Drew Beckie, who headed in a free kick from Russell Teibert in the 62nd minute, and from Randy Edwini-Bonsu, Teibert's Vancouver Whitecaps teammate, with a 25-yard half-volley in the 84th.
Beckie's goal, against a Chivas defense that stood and watched, did not please Fraser.
“One of the things we talked about before we started was focusing on set pieces, because close games oftentimes do come down to a set piece,” he said. “So to say that, and then turn around and have this happen, obviously, was disappointing.”
WORTH NOTING: Former Chivas Academy defender Omar Elmasri (Arcadia/Arcadia HS), who played at the University of San Francisco and with UANL Tigres' reserve team, played 19 minutes. Also seeing action was Chivas Academy U-18 midfielder Daniel Castro, who received an invitation to train with the first team after Fraser saw him with the U-18s and thought he “stood out as a pretty composed, intelligent player.” … Fraser said he is looking to place midfielders Bryan de la Fuente (Bell/Bell HS), who played Tuesday, and Cesar Zamora (Sylmar/Sylmar HS), who hasn't been in camp the past week or so with the Goats, in loan deals soon. He said the L.A. Blues, who will debut next month in the third-tier USL Pro, might be a “convenient” fit. … The Goats will face UCLA on Saturday night at 7:30 at HDC's track and field stadium.
CHIVAS' LINEUP: Zach Thornton (Sergio Arias, 31; Dan Kennedy, 60); Zarek Valentin (Omar Elmasri, 72), Jimmy Conrad, Michael Umaña (Andrew Boyens, 71), Heath Pearce (Jorge Flores, 60); Simon Elliott (Daniel Castro, 72), Mariano Trujillo (Artur Aghasyan, 72), Francisco Mendoza (Bryan de la Fuente, 72), Marcos Mondaini (Gerson Mayen, 46); Alan Gordon (Alejandro Moreno, 46), Tristan Bowen (Jesus Padilla, 46).
CHIVAS USA 2011 PRESEASON (3-3-1)
Feb. 1 vs. Fresno Fuego (PDL) at Templeton, Calif.: W 2-0 (goals by Gordon, Estupiñan)
Feb. 7 vs. San Jose Earthquakes at HDC: W 1-0 (Gordon)
Feb. 12 vs. Seattle Sounders at Casa Grande, Ariz.: L 0-1
Feb. 15 vs. Real Salt Lake at Casa Grande, Ariz.: L 0-2
Feb. 18 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps at Casa Grande, Ariz.: W 1-0 (Padilla)
Feb. 25 vs. D.C. United at HDC: T 0-0
March 1 vs. Canada U-23 at HDC: L 0-2
March 5: vs. UCLA at HDC
March 12: vs. FC Dallas at Frisco, Texas