CARSON, Calif. — Víctor Estupiñán's first season in MLS was one full of challenges that threatened to overwhelm him. But in the end, they offered hope for the future.
Drafted with the 14th overall pick in the first round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, Estupiñán immediately set a high bar for his performance with his declaration that he'd score 30 goals in his first season. Things turned out differently, as he ended up playing in just nine games for the Rojiblancos and fell 29 tallies short of his brash prediction.
Although first-team minutes were hard to come by for the striker, he continued to hone his craft in training and in reserve matches. Away from the limelight, Estupiñán began to notch goals in those reserve games – eventually ending with five — and started earning praise from the coaching staff for his hard work.
His perseverance finally paid off in the final match of the season against Seattle when, in the 83rd minute, Marcos Mondaíni headed the ball across goal to a waiting Estupiñán, who easily finished the chance. After the match, the Ecuadorian was hopeful that it was a sign of good things to come.
“I’m very happy with the goal; thank goodness I was able to score,” Estupiñán said after Chivas' 3-1 defeat. “It was a matter of being there and putting my head on it and it was clear to me that it happened for us. I’m happy with the way I’ve been playing lately so now I wait and I’m very optimistic because I really want to continue here.”
Kennedy on Comeback Player of the Year list
No one was more vital to Chivas this season than Dan Kennedy, who stellar goalkeeping was often responsible for keeping the Rojiblancos in games where they were outplayed elsewhere.
Due to his success this season, Kennedy was named as a candidate for the MLS Comeback Player of the Year award after missing the past two seasons due to various injuries. Having once been considered the heir apparent to former Chivas goalkeeper Brad Guzan, a knee injury in preseason cost Kennedy his 2009 season. Just a year later, Kennedy missed the entire 2010 season due to surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left biceps.
This season, the Rojiblancos goalkeeper was finally able to stay healthy, playing in 32 games while amassing 100 saves and nine shutouts.
“Personally, I’ve had three surgeries in the last two seasons prior to this one,” said Kennedy. “It’s a comeback, it was definitely an accomplishment for me. This was one of my goals, to get through a full season. I was happy to get the amount of games that I got, and hopefully now the most important thing is that we move forward as a team and we find a way to get better so that next year we’ll be in the playoffs.”
French trialist sees time for reserves
The season may be over, but the Rojiblancos are already beginning to look for players for the future.
One player that may be on the radar is French midfielder Nicolas Dieuze, who recently spent a week on trial. The Frenchman made appearances in the Rojiblancos’ last two reserve matches, going 45 minutes against the Galaxy and 90 against the Sounders. Dieuze, who is out of contract after a stint with Grenoble Foot 38, acquitted himself well in the both stints while playing on the right side of midfield.
Dieuze played alongside midfielder Laurent Courtois at Toulouse from 1999 to 2001 and assistant coach Greg Vanney at French club Bastia from 2001 to 2003. He turns 33 in February.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.