Rongen has options in defense

When Chivas USA defender Ryan Suarez collided with FC Dallas striker Carlos Ruiz last week, it not only knocked Chivas USA out of the match, it also knocked Suarez out of action for at least two weeks.

With Suarez certainly on the sideline for games against the Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution -- and possibly longer -- Chivas USA head coach Thomas Rongen will look to his bench yet again for a replacement starter in central defense.

But it's not exactly a barren cupboard he's reaching in.

Rongen might turn to rookie Aaron Lopez, who started the first two matches of the season. Or he could call on Jesus Ochoa, who started last week against FC Dallas. Or he might turn to one of two players who came up from CD Guadalajara, either Alfonso Loera or Armando Begines, both of whom are now healthy.

"We have some alternatives," Rongen said. "We'll look at who's the sharpest by (the end of the week) and base our decision on that."

Of the quartet, Ochoa has the most experience in MLS. But most of it has come as a defensive midfielder. Ochoa might in fact start at the defensive midfield slot left vacant when Francisco Gomez hurt his knee in the season opener. Ochoa got the call last week against FC Dallas but was pulled early in the second half for Francisco Mendoza, a more attacking-minded player.

Lopez has proven to be versatile and poised and coaches have noticed his work ethic. He earned Suarez's praise after the season opener, in which Lopez started in place of Douglas Sequeira.

The most intriguing duo, though, could potentially be Loera and Begines, neither of whom have played a regular-season MLS match.

"They're two different players," Rongen said. "(Loera) is a central defender and (Begines) is more of a fullback. One is a senior international with great experience. One is a youth international who I think has a promising future in this league."

Loera, 26, has plenty of Mexican league experience to draw from. Loera has played 38 matches with Chivas of Guadalajara, trailing only Ramon Ramirez and Martin Zuñiga in terms of Primera Division matches. Loera is recovered from offseason groin surgery and played 90 minutes for Chivas USA's reserves last week.

"Loera is an experienced defender who's played many first division games in Mexico," Rongen said. "He reads the game quite well. He's composed under pressure."

Begines, 22, also played in last week's reserve match. He played 45 minutes, his longest stint since breaking his collarbone in a friendly against the U.S. national team in early March.

The injury was a setback for Rongen, who had said Begines was a potential starter.

"Begines is a true left-footed player," Rongen said. "He has good technical ability and has some athleticism. He likes to attack from the back. We could push someone else inside and play him on the left potentially."

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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