Los Angeles Soccer: Mariano Trujillo

U.S. wins old fight among friends

April, 16, 2012
CARSON -- The scoreline in Sunday's U.S.-Mexico “legends” reunion at Home Depot Center might have been inevitable, given how everything else seemed to fall right into line.

Big crowd? Check. Rooting for El Tri? Of course. Early Mexican domination? Just like in series history. Lights-out goalkeeping? Shades of Tony Meola, Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel. An American triumph on home ground? Bingo.

“Same old same old, right?” Eric Wynalda chirped afterward. “2-0. That's the way these games finish.”

This one did, lending a red, white and blueish glow to a surprisingly delightful evening at the Clasico de Leyendas match between great U.S. and Mexican players of yesteryear, primarily the 1990s and early 2000s, when the rise of American soccer created the region's greatest national teams rivalry.

These games do finish 2-0, as most everyone on the field noted.

“Reminds me of the [2002] World Cup,” said Cobi Jones, who like former Westlake High School teammate Wynalda played in three World Cups for the U.S. “Same score, always fabulous.”

2002 is the apex of the rivalry, the only World Cup encounter in 59 meetings, but it was 2-0 U.S. in the home qualifier for the last three World Cups, in the 1991 Gold Cup -- the first of 13 U.S. victories in the past 21 years -- and in 2000 and 2007 friendlies.

The goals came from Roy Lassiter (Major League Soccer's first scoring champion) and Brian McBride (a legend in the U.S. and parts of England), and both arrived in the second half, after Galaxy goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer (capped just once, in 1992) had made the best of eight fantastic saves -- on Francisco Palencia, Ramon Morales, Jared Borgetti twice, Alberto Garcia Aspe, Ramon Ramirez and Luis Hernandez twice -- that kept the Yanks in what had been a very one-sided game.

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CHIVAS USA: Preseason 2012 quick look

January, 15, 2012

Robin FraserVictor Decolongon/Getty ImagesRobin Fraser is rebuilding his roster again this winter.

CARSON -- Chivas USA's preparations for the 2012 season began with medical exams Sunday and moves onto good, old Field 6 at Home Depot Center on Monday morning, with head coach Robin Fraser welcoming a lot of new faces -- and not all of them, by any means, under contract.

The Goats have unloaded nearly half their 2011 roster and added a half-dozen or so new names, and if Fraser's second preseason in charge is anything like the first, plenty of trialists will get a look.

Chivas brass last year looked at more than 80 players, including academy kids, as Fraser and general manager Jose Domene presided over a rebuild that the coach said was more building “from scratch.”

Fraser's idea this year is to have a team in place as the preseason starts, but he's got roster spots to fill and areas of great need and not all negotiations are finished. Five players will be added in Tuesday's supplemental draft, and another overseas signing is possible.

Here's a quick look at the Goats as their campaign begins:

Chivas endured the kind of up-and-down season common to rebuilding years in 2011, playing some exceptional possession soccer but suffering from inconsistency at both ends. The Goats won back-to-back games just once, in April, and watched .500 slip away over the last two-thirds of the season. Playoff hopes died with a seven-game winless streak in August and September.

Nonetheless, Fraser and his staff built a strong foundation, several players -- especially goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, midfielder Nick LaBrocca and defender Heath Pearce -- enjoyed remarkable seasons and the addition of Juan Pablo Angel, in an August trade from the Galaxy, gave the Goats their first top-class MLS striker since Ante Razov.

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GALAXY: Sarvas the prize as roster grows

December, 12, 2011

The Galaxy made the deepest plunge in Major League Soccer's second-stage re-entry draft, grabbing the rights to four veterans in positions Bruce Arena said the club needed depth and keeping the rights to two defenders whose options had been declined.

But the biggest acquisition the Galaxy coach/general manager mentioned in Monday's post-draft teleconference isn't official. Yet.

Arena said L.A., indeed, has signed Brazilian midfielder Marcelo Sarvas from Costa Rican power Alajuelense. Sarvas, 30, last week told Costa Rican website Al Pie del Deporte that he had agreed to a two-year deal with the Galaxy.

Asked about Sarvas, Arena first hesitated and asked the Galaxy's media director where the club stood on an announcement. Then he said: “We've signed that player, and we will in the next day or two get out a release on him. He's a good, experienced, two-way midfielder I think is going to help our team.”

So, in theory, will goalkeeper Jon Conway, defenders Andrew Boyens and Chris Leitch, and forward Pat Noonan, whose rights were acquired during Monday's draft. The Galaxy also reacquired the rights to defenders Frankie Hejduk and Dasan Robinson.

“Our selections were based simply on covering some positions, and as you know the rules, we have seven days to reach agreement with the players,” Arena said. “Whether we do or not remains to be seen. What we were able to do is select players in some positions we believe we need cover for. They're all veteran players, they have experience, and they're good players for the locker room. At the end of the day, if we get some of them or all of them, they'll all be a positive asset for our team.”

The Galaxy took Boyens, 28, a tall central defender from New Zealand who played in a dozen league games last season for Chivas USA, with the fifth selection of the first round. Leitch, 32, an outside back who has spent the past three seasons in San Jose, was taken at the end of the second round.

By then everybody else was done, and Arena added Noonan, 31, from Seattle and Conway, 34, from Chicago, then grabbed the rights to Hejduk, a reserve outside back for L.A. last season, and Robinson, a center back whom L.A. acquired in a trade from Toronto FC in September.

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No L.A., Chivas changes on re-entry list

December, 9, 2011

No changes in the list of Galaxy and Chivas USA players available for Monday's second-stage draft in Major League Soccer's re-entry process.

Galaxy defenders Frankie Hejduk and Dasan Robinson are up for grabs, and so is the Chivas USA quintet of goalkeeper Zach Thornton, defender Andrew Boyens, midfielders Simon Elliott and Mariano Trujillo, and forward Chukwudi Chijindu.

Vancouver midfielder Peter Vagenas, the former Galaxy captain from Pasadena and UCLA, and Portland midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, from Wilmington, also are on the list.

Chivas has the No. 4 selection in the draft, and the Galaxy pick 18th.

Clubs must make contract offers within seven days to players selected in the second stage of the draft and retain the rights of those taken if an agreement can't be reached. They may select their own players in the draft only after every other club has passed on them.

Those not selected become free agents.

Among the more interesting players on the list are midfielders Baggio Husidic (from Chicago) and Clyde Simms (D.C. United), and defenders Marc Burch (D.C.), Ryan Cochrane (New England), Jonathan Leathers (Vancouver), Chris Leitch (San Jose) and Shavar Thomas (Sporting Kansas City).

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CHIVAS USA: Alvarez arrives via re-entry

December, 5, 2011
Chivas USA has decided to invest in veteran winger/forward Arturo Alvarez, claiming him in Monday's first-stage draft in Major League Soccer's re-entry process, even with his salary close to $200,000.

Alvarez, 26, a Texan who plays for El Salvador's national team after representing the U.S. at the youth levels, has scored 24 goals and 20 assists in 187 MLS games over nine seasons, but he's coming off an unhappy experience at Real Salt Lake, where he played in just 16 games, starting eight, in 2011.

He has started 20 games in a season just three, in 2007 at FC Dallas, in 2008 between Dallas and San Jose, and in 2009 in San Jose. He scored a career-best six goals in 2008 and five the following season.

“Arturo is a player who I've always thought had a very interesting skill set,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “He's very, very comfortable on the ball, good taking players on. The type of player who I think it is very difficult for defenders to deal with.”

Alvarez is out-of-contract, and Chivas is forced to make a “Bona Fide Offer” that is at least equal to Alvarez's 2011 salary, which was $192,585 ($201,933.50 average guaranteed compensation). The forward also is believed to be considering options in Mexico.

“I think there is a possibility that Arturo has had an eye for leaving the league for a long time ...,” Fraser said. “The word on him is thatt he's always wanting to go overseas. Hopefully, he's interested in staying. Perhaps he goes overseas and doesn't like to options available to him, in which case we have the opportunity to keep him.”

Fraser said Alvarez's price tag was not a deterrent.

“There's a negotiation to be had, no matter what,” Fraser said. “I think he's a player who can be extremely, extremely dangerous in this league and has shown he's a player who can be very dangerous creating opportunities both for himself and other people. We don't necessarily look at that number and say no way, because we do think he can be very productive.”

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Options declined for Cristman, Jazic

November, 30, 2011

The Galaxy declined options on forward Adam Cristman and defender Frankie Hejduk, who played in Wednesday's friendly in Indonesia. Chivas USA passed on starting left back Ante Jazic.

All three are among 69 players available in Monday's first-stage draft of Major League's Soccer's re-entry process.

The Galaxy also declined the option on defender Dasan Robinson, acquired in mid-September from Toronto FC, who also played in he Galaxy's 1-0 victory over Indonesia's national team to start its postseason tour of Asia and Australia.

Chivas declined options on goalkeeper Zach Thornton, defender Andrew Boyens, midfielder/defender Mariano Trujillo and forward Chukwudi Chijindu and decided not to offer a new contract to midfielder Simon Elliott.

Clubs may negotiate with their players, and players may opt out of the process, through Friday.

The Galaxy might want to bring back Hejduk and Robinson, but not at their current salaries -- Hejduk made $96,000 this year, Robinson $97,500. Their intentions with Cristman seem clearer: He was making only $42,000, a relative bargain.

Jazic, who at 35 had one of his finest MLS campaigns, also is a money decision. He made $115,000 this year, and the Goats would like to pare that number considerably. It is unlikely any of the other five on Chivas' list will return next season.

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CHIVAS USA: Season ends in defeat

October, 22, 2011

Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesThe Seattle Sounders gave Chivas USA a fitting end to their disappointing season with a 3-1 drubbing.

Robin Fraser's first season in charge of Chivas USA ended as it started, in defeat, with the Goats dropping a spot in the standings and failing to surpass last year's victory total.

The Seattle Sounders, preparing for its playoff run, scored three second-half goals en route to a 3-1 triumph Saturday night at Home Depot Center, a deserved victory that sets up a first-round playoff series, starting next weekend, against Real Salt Lake.

Fraser and his staff now embark on postseason assessments, selecting which 11 players to protect before next month's Major League Soccer expansion draft, determining which players to invite back (and which to jettison), and taking the initial steps toward the 2012 season following an 8-14-12 campaign.

The loss, coupled with San Jose's victory over FC Dallas, sends the Goats from seventh to eighth in the Western Conference table, two points behind the Earthquakes and eight in front of last-place Vancouver. Chivas fell from 14th to 15th in the overall standings.

An Andrew Boyens own goal and fine finishes by Alvaro Fernandez and Riverside's Sammy Ochoa sent Seattle to a three-goal lead. Victor Estupiņan's header -- after Marcos Mondaini nodded back into the goalmouth a Mariano Trujillo cross from the right flank to the far post -- ended the Sounders' shutout bid in the 83rd minute.

Seattle (18-7-9), which finished second in the Supporters' Shield and Western standings to the Galaxy, suffered a potentially damning blow just five minutes into the game, when Ben Zemanski knocked knees with league MVP candidate Mauro Rosales, who just returned from an MCL sprain.

Rosales was stretchered off, holding his face in his hands, and pulled from the game (and Zemanski was yellow-carded, the first of several dubious decisions by overmatched referee Ricardo Salazar). Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said on the Sounders' telecast that he didn't think the injury was “as bad as last time.”

“It's a little more precaution than anything else,” he said. “Obviously, you're on high alert and you're concerned. Going into the game, you don't want anything [injury-wise] to happen, so that's important.”

A quick look at Chivas' defeat:

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CHIVAS: No shots, no goals, a waved-off PK

July, 17, 2011

Thierry HenryJeff Gross/Getty ImagesThierry Henry of the Red Bulls fends off Chivas USA's Ben Zemanski during Saturday night's game.

CARSON -- Chivas USA didn't manage to put one shot on target, and here they were, on the verge of victory. For a few seconds, at least.

Then referee Mark Kadlecik conferred with his linesman, and the penalty kick he'd awarded the Goats in the 90th minute was waved off.

The Goats' peaks-and-valleys campaign went through another one of those nights Saturday, and all in all, a 0-0 draw with New York was a reasonably positive result. But, oh, what could have been.

Chivas' half-chances weren't enough to test debuting Red Bulls goalkeeper Frank Rost, fresh from the German Bundesliga, but some fine play, as always, by goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was enough to keep a clean sheet as the Goats (5-7-8) extended their unbeaten streak to four games.

It was the struggles connecting in the final third, a problem that keeps resurfacing, that defined the match for Chivas, which put one shot off the crossbar (a Jorge Flores blast in the 38th minute) but couldn't get on the end of crosses into the box and found it difficult to find shots that might matter.

The attack could be strengthened in the next week, head coach Robin Fraser and general manager Jose Domene acknowledged, with signings of “more than one” player apparently imminent.

“Sure. Yes,” Fraser said when asked if a signing was about to happen. How soon? “You know how the process works, with signing and visas and that sort of thing, so as soon as it can happen, you will know.”

Domene said deals were “almost done” and that Chivas “wants to bring in [players] right away, but it's a process. It takes time. It's pretty much done, but it's not finalized.” A forward is the the biggest need, and Fraser acknowledged that signing one "certainly is a very big priority."

No shots on goal usually means no goals, but the Goats had to think one was coming when Kadlecik whistled Red Bulls defender Carlos Mendes for handling a Pearce corner kick in the final minute. The Red Bulls quickly surrounded the referee, who talked it over with linesman Jeff Hosking before reversing himself.

“That's quite a roller-coaster there in a matter of seconds,” said midfielder Nick LaBrocca. “You're in there, and the end of the game is in sight, you're given something, and to have it taken away is an emotional thing.”

Fraser didn't want to talk about it much. “It's extremely disappointing and confusing, to say the least, but whatever,” he said. “Anything else I say will lead to me getting fined.”

Mendes was sliding toward the goal when the ball hit him, and Kadlecik apparently thought it caught his arm. Replays seemed to indicate the ball hit Mendes in the face, caroming toward the goal, where Rost made the stop.

“It would have been really frustrating to gt that kind of wrong decision against you,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said, “but luckily the linesman saw that the ball hit Mendes' chin and not a handball.”

Chivas forward Justin Braun acknowledged the officials seemed to get it right, not that that eases the frustration.

“It just sucks that the ref did call it at first,” he said. “That's stuff that shouldn't go on. At this level, if you call a PK, you should stick with it.”

A quick look at Chivas' draw:

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CHIVAS USA: Bowen scores in Reserve return

June, 5, 2011

Tristan Bowen's return to action after two months away with an ankle injury brought him a new position, a new set of challenges and, best of all, a goal. An important one, too.

The 20-year-old attacker from Van Nuys headed home a Mariano Trujillo feed Sunday as Chivas USA, down to 10 men for more than an hour, rallied for a 3-3 MLS Reserve League draw with the Portland Timbers at Home Depot Center's Track and Field Stadium.

The strike trimmed the Timbers' advantage to 3-2 in the 63rd minute, and Victor Estupiņan scored from another Trujillo pass five minutes later to deliver a share of the points.

Bowen, who has be sidelined with a sprained ankle since the first week of April, was on the game-day roster Saturday, for the 1-0 victory over the Timbers in MLS play, for the first time since March 26. He played 68 minutes Sunday atop the midfield diamond, just behind Estupiņan and fellow forward Chris Cortez.

“It felt good, getting in there and getting a run with the guys,” said Bowen, who came to Chivas in an offseason trade from the Galaxy. “I was a little bit gassed in the first half, but I caught my second wind going into the second half.”

By then Chivas was down a man -- Cortez, who scored the first goal, was ejected after punching Timbers defender Eric Brunner in the 28th minute -- and behind, 2-1. Eddie Johnson's second goal of the game, two minutes into the second half, made that 3-1.

No problem.

“We fought hard,” Bowen said. “We went down a man early in the game. It's nothing we don't practice in our regular sessions, so it was more of another exercise.”

So was Bowen's move to central midfield. He's played up top and on the flank and said he was “a bit surprised” when asked to take on the role. Chivas head coach Robin Fraser said it was a move with Bowen's future in mind.

“It's important for Tristan [to be back],” Fraser said, “and he played more in the middle of the field, and he had to make more decisions and that sort of thing, which is important in his growth. I thought he did well.”

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Galaxy, Chivas fall in Reserve games

April, 24, 2011

The Galaxy's dominance of the Portland Timbers extended into Sunday afternoon's MLS Reserve League meeting, but it lasted less than a half-hour.

Once Michael Stephens, the most influential player to begin the match, was sent off for a last-man foul in the 28th minute, the Timbers found their legs, started linking passes and took advantage of their opportunities for a 3-1 victory in a league opener at Home Depot Center's Track and Field Stadium.

Rookie forward Spencer Thompson, out of UC Irvine, scored two of the Timbers' goals, and former Santa Barbara High School standout Rodrigo Lopez assisted a pair.

Jovan Kirovski, the Galaxy captain, slotted into central defense, his “first real game” he's played at the position.

“I think I can play there,” he said. “We're short on central defenders, and I can do the job there. So it's fun. I had fun playing there.”

Both teams used experienced lineups, each with at least a half-dozen players who wouldn't look out of place in the first teams. Included: Galaxy Designated Player Juan Pablo Angel, who faded after an energetic first 25 minutes and departed at halftime.

SEEING RED: Stephens, teamed with Paolo Cardozo in central midfield, was outstanding both ways and provided a foundation to the Galaxy's possession game. Until he was red-carded, for dragging down Ryan Pore just outside L.A.'s box while trying to make up for a give-away, the game had been played overwhelmingly between the midfield line and Portland's box.

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CHIVAS USA: A dramatic first victory

April, 23, 2011

It took six games, 85 minutes and one fortuitous rebound, but Chivas USA -- and rookie head coach Robin Fraser -- are winless no more.

Mariano Trujillo trundled home after San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch made a diving slap of Justin Braun's blast with about five minutes to go, lifting the Goats to a 2-1 victory over the Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara.

“The win was going to come. I never thought that I was going go my whole career without a win,” Fraser told media after he moved within 140 victories of all-time MLS leader Sigi Schmid, Seattle's head coach. “I’m happy for the guys because they’ve worked incredibly hard and have been scrutinized up and down. For them to get their first win on the road, it was a huge testament to what they’ve done.”

Alejandro Moreno scored in first-half stoppage -- or received credit for a Heath Pearce goal from a free kick -- as Chivas (1-2-3) rallied from an early deficit with an impressive triumph in a match full of incidence and, for the Goats, opportunity.

Chivas, which had scored just once in its previous four MLS matches -- and not at all in the past two -- dictated play most of the match and created more than a half-dozen solid scoring chances, hitting a post and forcing the oft-brilliant Busch to make three enormous saves.

A quick look at Chivas' victory:

BEST PLAYER: Heath Pearce probably is Chivas USA's MVP at this point, so agile has handled the switch to central defense. He was impeccable in the back Saturday, governing the Goats' effort in denying the Quakes any kind of attacking presence, set pieces aside, until Ryan Johnson came off the bench in the 64th minute.

Pearce has such a good foot that he can play-make out of the back to some extent, and his dead-ball work was, well, deadly. He was responsible for the first goal, whether he ends up with credit for the goal or an assist, with a superb free kick that bounced inside the left post.

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CHIVAS USA: Goats get healthier, or not

April, 20, 2011
Jimmy Conrad and -- surprise! -- Blair Gavin are close to returning, but Paulo Nagamura has had a setback in his return from a calf injury, Michael Lahoud must comply with post-concussion protocol, and Seth Owusu has undergone knee surgery.

Just another day in Chivatown.

Injuries could deprive Chivas USA of at least half a dozen players for Saturday afternoon's Major League Soccer encounter at San Jose, but that's how this team rolls. Their depth certainly has been tested, and for the most part has persevered, in a 0-2-3 start.

But there is good news on the injury front. Conrad is asymptomatic following his concussion last month and was scheduled to meet with a neurologist Wednesday, the next step in MLS's post-concussion protocol.

He could be ready to go April 30 against New England at Home Depot Center.

“I'm getting closer. I'm on the mend, but I still need to do the due process and talk to this guy,” Conrad said Wednesday. “I mean, if he sees there's a little hitch in my giddyup, then I have to step back and go from there. …

“I don't think there's any rush to get me back -- it's a long season. I'd assume the safe bet is a week from this weekend.”

GAVIN IN GERMANY: Gavin, sidelined by a recurring hamstring injury (and thought to be far off in his return), also is targeting the New England game -- or May 7 at Real San Jose -- after making great progress since spending a week in Konstanz, Germany, with Dr. Kurt Mosetter, originator of “myoreflex” therapy.

“It taught me a lot about my body, and just how the body is a big muscle chain, and if one of the chains is weak, that could lead to [problems in] another part ...,” Gavin said. “It's a lot of stuff, where they're pushing -- they don't call it pressure points, but it's spots in your body that have a lot of tension.”

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CHIVAS USA: Banton deadline is near

April, 14, 2011
Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser says he hasn't made up his mind yet whether to add English winger/forward Jason Banton to his roster, but he'll have to. Quickly.

The transfer window closes Friday, after which Major League Soccer clubs will be unable to bring in players under contract to foreign clubs until the summer window opens July 15. Banton's rights are owned by Liverpool FC, and the Goats likely will bring him in on loan, if they bring him in.

The 18-year-old attacker, who scored a goal and set up another in Chivas' reserve side's 2-0 victory last weekend over the L.A. Blues, has returned to England, which typically means one of two things: He's gone. Or he's home to get his work visa, a necessary step in the transfer process.

"It's a big puzzle (building a team)," Fraser said after training Thursday at Home Depot Center. "You never really feel like you've seen enough, but you've got to go with your gut feeling at some point, and like I said [last weekend], it's how the money, everything fits into the puzzle."

Fellow trialist Kerry Baptiste, a 29-year-old Trinidadian forward, is not under contract, so Chivas can take its time in determining whether he's a good fit for its goal-lite attack. He also played in the game against the Blues.

"Kerry's done all right this week," Fraser said. "He did pretty well in our 11-v-11 yesterday. He's a forward who likes to be in front of the goal, which is good, and we'll have to make a decison on him shortly as well."

INJURY UPDATE: Central defender Jimmy Conrad is still trying to get through a week without symptoms following his concussion sustained March 26 against Colorado. That's the first step in MLS's post-concussion protocol.

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CHIVAS USA: Negotiations on with Liverpool youth

April, 10, 2011

Chivas USA's search for someone who can score and create goals has unearthed a real prospect, and now the Goats are figuring out whether they can afford him -- and whether he fits into the master plan.

Teen attacker Jason Banton, on trial the past week from Liverpool FC's youth academy, put on a show Sunday as Chivas' reserves toppled the L.A. Blues, 2-0, in a friendly at Home Depot Center's Track and Field Stadium.

He set up the first goal, hammering off the left post from a corner kick for defender Andy Boyens to finish, then scored the second, effortlessly beating Blues goalkeeper Oscar Dautt from a Victor Estupiņan through ball.

Can he play at the Major League Soccer level? Yes. Would Chivas like him on its roster? Sure. Will a deal be done? We'll see.

“It's a matter of deciding if his asking price is something that we can afford or should afford,” head coach Robin Fraser said after Sunday's game. “He's a talented young player, for sure, but like any or most 18-year-old players, there are some concerns. So we just need to weigh the whole thing and decide what is right.”

Fraser said he likes that Banton is “forward thinking, he likes to run and guys and he's pretty good at taking people on.” His concerns: “He's young, and while the boxscore will show you the goalscorer and that sort of thing, it doesn't tell the whole story. It's really a snapshot of the game. There's a statistic out there: You only have [the ball at your feed] for, like, two minutes of the 90 minutes you play. So what are you doing the other 88 minutes? These are all the things that go into that decision.”

Jason Banton
ESPNLA.comJason Banton, 18-year-old English forward/winger playing on the Chivas reserve squad.

Banton, London-born and -bred, has played in Arsenal's, Blackburn's and, since January, Liverpool's academies. He says he told his agent he wanted to look for a club overseas, and that his first choice was MLS, and less than two weeks later he was headed to Los Angeles.

“I thought I needed a change, and I need some first-team football, ...” said Banton, who played at forward, in central midfield and in his favored position on the left flank against the Blues. “We're looking for me to stay on; obviously, just negotiating a few things, but hopefully stay on, but looking positive so far.

“It's a great club, great staff, great manager, great background. So hopefully stay on and push forward.”

Banton has seen a few Major League Soccer games. He was at Arsenal when Thierry Henry was setting standards for the Gunners and has watched a couple of his games with New York, and he's seen David Beckham with the Galaxy.

The Blues team Banton faced Sunday, which is preparing for its debut in third-tier league USL Pro next weekend, was dotted with former MLS players and a few with experience in Mexico, so if it wasn't a true reflection of what he'd face in the league, it offered at least a hint.

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CHIVAS USA: Look who's in the middle!

March, 22, 2011
Chivas USA unveiled a new partnership in central defense Tuesday, and it's unlikely they'll find a better pairing this season -- if ever. They'll have to: This probably was a one-off.

With three central defenders away on international duty -- Zarek Valentin, Michael Umaņa and Andy Boyens -- head coach Robin Fraser and top assistant coach Greg Vanney stepped onto the field for the Goats in a 5-0 thrashing of Loyola Marymount University at Home Depot Center's Track and Field Stadium.

Vanney went the full 90, and Fraser came on in the 67th minute, joining Vanney in the middle for the final 25 minutes or so.

"We were a little thin on numbers ...," said Vanney, who was cool as can be, directing the players around him and showing off his cultured left foot. "Ben Zemanski was going to play a little bit in center back, and just he had some tightness in his hamstring, so I went in. And the other thought was that some of our young guys, we just wanted to give them a feel for how to run a backline and the communication it takes to run a backline, so we thought we'd get a little time with them and try to coach them, in the middle of the game a little bit."

Vanney, 36, a two-time MLS Best XI selection who retired following the 2008 season with the Galaxy, said he had last played 90 minutes last year, in preseason games against MLS teams visiting Arizona, where he was based. Fraser, 44, a five-time Best XI pick and two-time MLS Defender of the Year, retired in 2005.

Any chance they'll follow in the footsteps of goalkeeper Pat Onstad, who retired after last season, became an assistant coach with D.C. United, then came out of retirement when D.C. needed help in the nets?

Uh ... no.

Fraser said being on the field again was "like the other 5,000 games I've played in my life" and that he had "no desire whatsoever" to play competitively again. Said Vanney: "No returning for me."

"The important thing for us today certainly was not us playing," Fraser said. "It was getting guys some experience and being able to move guys in certain positions, and that was really the reason we played, to look at players in different positions. Given how thin we are at the moment, looking around, it was either me or Carlos [Llamosa, an assistant coach and former national team defender], and I think Carlos had full warmups on, so I figured it was me."

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