CARSON, Calif. — Andrew Boyens has waited a long time to get back into the Chivas USA starting lineup. His big chance arrived Saturday against Toronto FC and he grabbed it with both hands.
Starting in place of the injured Heath Pearce, who had tweaked his hamstring during training last Friday, Boyens stepped in against TFC and led the Goats to their ninth shutout this season.
The game marked his first appearance since June 25 and his first start since late May. Boyens was instrumental in shutting down Toronto forward Danny Koevermans, who had terrorized defenses prior to the Chivas matchup.
“It's nice to play, but it's tough when Heath goes down,” Boyens told MLSsoccer.com. “It's a credit to the rest of the team that we can slot into places when we need to. We do a lot of training at that and you come straight back into the team and know what your roles are.”
Boyens' performance against Toronto typified a topsy-turvy season for the New Zealand international. After starting earlier in the season, he found himself resigned to the bench as Pearce and Michael Umaña locked down the center back spots. When Pearce went down with a hamstring injury in late August, Boyens appeared set for a return to action, but the call for extra playing time never came.
The industrious Boyens continued his hard work on the training ground despite being overlooked, which made his return to action against Toronto even more enjoyable. Against TFC, It wasn't just his positioning that earned him rave reviews, but also his leadership abilities.
Throughout the match, the presence of the four-year MLS veteran settled his center back partner, David Júnior Lopes, who arguably put in the finest performance of his brief career.
“I think it is difficult to step into situations where you haven't played in several weeks and to get up to game speed right away, I thought he did a great job and it's great for his confidence,” head coach Robin Fraser said of Boyens. “These are challenging times for this team, every play is critical, and for Andy to step in and be as solid as he was is a true representation of the good professional he is. He's kept himself in as good shape physically and mentally as a player can be when he's not playing and he did quite well.”
With the severity of Pearce’s hamstring injury still unknown, Boyens is in contention for a start on Saturday when the Rojiblancos fight for their playoff lives against the Philadelphia Union. Whether he returns to the field against the Union or not, Boyens’ Chivas teammates have complete faith in the veteran Kiwi’s ability when he’s called upon.
"That's what we need; we need guys to step in and perform,” said goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. “Andy did that [against Toronto]. He's been around and knows what the league and these games are all about.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org