Palencia joins Chivas USA for friendly

One day after suffering a disastrous loss, Chivas USA had a wonderful gain.

Francisco Palencia joined Chivas USA on Thursday and played all 90 minutes in a 3-2 friendly win against PDL side California Seahorses. Originally scheduled to join the club a week ago, Palencia said he was anxious to begin his Major League Soccer career.

"Chivas (Guadalajara) is in the past. I'm with Chivas USA and all my attention and all my focus is here too," Palencia said. "I made a promise. I'm a man of my word and I honored my promise."

A member of Mexico's 1998 and 2002 World Cup teams, Palencia was introduced as a Chivas USA player last summer. Over the winter, Palencia asked to stay with Guadalajara for the Clausura 2005 campaign, which he did, and he helped lead Chivas to the Copa Libertadores semifinals.

Amidst rumors of Palencia's supposed dislike of MLS and U.S. soccer, he said stories circulating in the media were simply untrue. Palencia said he was awaiting a visa for his baby.

"I come with high hopes and enthusiasm despite this controversy which turned out to be nothing but speculation," he said, as at least two dozen fans waited anxiously for pictures and autographs. "I was happy over there but that doesn't mean that by coming here I came sad or depressed."

On Thursday, Palencia showed his caliber and pedigree, albeit against a lesser side. Palencia, who played both as a center forward and attacking midfielder, set up players with precise passes and sent teammates on dangerous runs.

Palencia did not score -- though he rattled the crossbar -- but he was in on all three goals and had it not been for missed opportunities, could have had twice as many assists as he finished with.

Juan Pablo Garcia played well with Palencia. The duo connected on several dangerous and creative plays. One friendly was all defender Orlando Perez needed to see to be convinced.

"I can't wait to see them play in a real game," Perez said. "They're going to help us tremendously. Come their first game, we're going to be excited as much as they are."

For his part, Garcia seemed as ecstatic as anybody else.

"We have high hopes and are very enthusiastic about his arrival," he said. "We want to change things and make it better here and with him on our side now, we're going to change things for the better. We can all adapt for the better. He has a strong field vision and he sees things well."

But Palencia's stature goes beyond the Mexican league and even the national team. And that can only benefit Chivas USA.

"He's a globally-recognizable player. Not many can have a player like him," Garcia said. "We need to value that and value him as a person and as a player."

The only drawback about having Palencia, Garcia and Hector "Pirata" Castro around is that none will be able to play until Aug. 21, after the international transfer window opens. That means Chivas USA will have to play three league games from now until then without the reinforcements.

Still, it is preferable to have those guys around the team, whether they can play or not.

"The team is practically complete now," Chivas captain Ramon Ramirez said. "It's good that these guys can be here. We need their help and hopefully they can help us get some results that we badly need."

Palencia will have a little more than two weeks until the club's Aug. 21 date at the MetroStars. He said he's under contract for the rest of this season and all of next.

"I'm here honoring my contract," Palencia said. "I'm happy to be here because this is a complicated challenge and I look forward to challenges."

As for the seemingly high expectations that come with being such a talented and well-respected player, Palencia said he is concerned only about two things: training well and playing well. The rest, he said, will take care of itself.

"My responsibility is to train and play well. How you train is how you play. If you do not train well, you will not play well," Palencia said. "The only thing I promise is hard work and good soccer and really that's all we need."

Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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