CARSON, Calif. - When it came time for Chivas USA to acquire players from Mexico, the obvious choices were a household-name player as well as a future star.
So when Francisco Palencia and Juan Pablo Garcia were acquired, the club seemingly fit those needs.
However, it was the blue-collar reinforcement that was sorely lacking. That slot was filled by Hector "Pirata" Castro.
Unfortunately Castro never got his shot with the Red-and-White. The steady and durable defender proved to be no match for Giants Stadium's artificial surface, tearing his knee during pregame warmups in what would have been his Major League Soccer debut on Aug. 21.
Now, Castro is in the midst of a months-long rehabilitation that, if all goes well, would put him back on the pitch in 2006.
"By January I should be ready to start the preseason with the club," the soft-spoken Castro said.
Injuries were never a part of Castro's career. Since debuting for Chivas de Guadalajara in the Invierno 1996 campaign, Castro had played double-digit matches in all but his first two seasons.
His last year in the Mexican Primera Division was with Monarcas Morelia and it was a rather successful one as Castro played in every game save one (he earned a red card in Week 3 of the Torneo Clausura 2005) and missed only the 90 minutes he was suspended for plus the 59 minutes after being sent off against Veracruz. Castro, who is not known for his offense, scored two goals in the Mexican league playoffs as his club reached the semifinals.
Now, after having his first operation since he turned professional 10 years ago, he is confined to rehabilitation work. Currently, he is working on exercises to help his flexibility and motion. Next month, he could start running.
Still, Castro shrugged off his bad luck with his knee injury.
"It's just a part of soccer. These things happen," Castro said. "I just have to keep my focus and remain calm because I know I'll be ready for the upcoming season. Unfortunately I couldn't support the team this year but next season we'll try to do things the right way."
Castro, 29, said it was not easy having trained with the team for nearly one month and not getting in a match. But next year, he said he would be a part of an improved Chivas side.
"The team has gotten better but we have to continue working in order to improve," Castro said. "I think next season will be a good one for us."
It seems the only question surrounding Castro is where to play him at. Can he play defensive midfielder for the Red-and-White and fill the spot mostly occupied by captain Ramon Ramirez? Or is he better suited as a sweeper, a vital cog in coach Hans Westerhof's scheme?
"I feel comfortable playing at both positions. I've played both before," Castro said. "I haven't spoken with Hans to see where he prefers me but whatever position I play I will give it my all."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.