CARSON, Calif. — In the midst of a heated playoff race with arguably one of the most important games of the season on the horizon, Chivas USA find themselves needing to reshuffle their back line.
In a sweltering training session on Thursday, Andrew Boyens was partnered with recent addition David Júnior Lopes as the Goats prepare for a pivotal matchup on Saturday against D.C. United (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). With Michael Umaña logging 180 minutes with Costa Rica over the past week and Heath Pearce out for at least three weeks with a hamstring injury, the New Zealand International represents an option for head coach Robin Fraser.
“He’s a great professional and his approach to training everyday has been fantastic,” Fraser said of Boyens. “He’s the kind of guy that gives his all to his team and it’s an effort that has been appreciated. He played valuable minutes for us at the beginning of the year and now he’s in fight for a position again.”
The fight for a center back position hasn’t always been easy for the New Zealand international. Boyens was a starter for Chivas at the beginning of the season, but has since been left off the game day roster numerous times. The defender has made a total of eight appearances this season with seven starts, but his last appearance came as a substitute for the Goats’ 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Union back on June 25.
Although it has been longer than two months since his last appearance, Boyens has remained the optimist preparing for his next opportunity. The 2010 World Cup veteran hopes his shot will come on Saturday.
“At the moment, it’s [the coaches] choice, the great thing about this team is that we play a system and everyone knows their role,” Boyens told MLSsoccer.com. “I’ve been [champing] at the bit to get back in there so if my time comes, then I’ll be ready.”
Boyens and Umaña have shown throughout the season that they can contribute partnered alongside Heath Pearce, but the real question mark is Júnior Lopes. The Brazilian has struggled in his two appearances for the Rojiblancos, conceding the winning goal against Real Salt Lake in the Goats' last match on August 27.
Although the burly defender has had his growing pains, Júnior Lopes has had time to integrate himself into the Chivas USA system during the club’s recent bye week.
“Against Real Salt Lake, apart from the goal, he was good,” Fraser said. “He’s a physical presence for us that we’ve not had and I think that he’ll only get better the fitter, he’ll get.”
However, with Pearce gone, Fraser is leaving all of his center-back options open ahead of the game against United.
“I’m looking at everything,” said a smiling Fraser.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.