Los Angeles Soccer: Ronnie Ekelund
January, 21, 2011
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Jimmy Conrad's first day on the field with his new team reminded him of 2001. That's a good thing.
The Chivas USA center back, among nearly three dozen players put through the paces as new coach Robin Fraser and his staff opened preseason training Friday with drills designed to gauge fitness, is the most prominent veteran addition to a Goats side that is reinventing itself following a last-place finish last year in the Western Conference.
Fraser has been part of such a rebuild before, on Jason Kreis' staff as Real Salt Lake transformed from Major League Soccer from doormat to champion in three years, and so has Conrad.
The defender from Temple City (Temple City HS/UCLA) was a third-year defender in San Jose a decade ago as the Earthquakes began a new era following a worst-in-the-league finish in 2000.
The Quakes had a new coach -- former pro defender Frank Yallop, who had done fine work as an assistant coach at D.C. United -- and three new veteran presences, from U.S. national team defender Jeff Agoos, winger Manny Lagos and Danish midfielder Ronnie Ekelund.
“I liken [Chivas USA today] to 2001,” said Conrad, who was acquired from Sporting Kansas City in last month's re-entry draft. “We had some older players mixed with some younger guys -- there were me, Joe Cannon, Wade Barrett, Richard Mulrooney, and we picked up Landon [Donovan] -- and then we had Agoos and [veteran defender] Troy Dayak and Ekelund and Manny Lagos.
“And we had Frank Yallop, who's very similar to Robin. For whatever reason, there just seems to be some of the same parallels.”
Reason for hope? Well, the Earthquakes won the MLS Cup title in 2001, beating the Galaxy in the final -- the first of four league championships in seven years by the Quakes/Houston Dynamo.