CARSON, Calif. — It is impossible not to notice Chivas USA’s newest defender. Standing an impressive 6-foot-4, John Alexander Valencia cuts an imposing figure.
The 30-year-old from Medellín, Colombia, walks with a continuously focused expression and a prominent scowl.
In all, he doesn't look like the cheeriest of fellows. But don't get him wrong — he’s excited about his prospects at Chivas.
“I’m very happy here and my teammates have taken me in very well, and that has made me feel better, so adapting to the team is that much easier,” Valencia told MLSsoccer.com. “Being concentrated and aggressive is just one of the things that undoubtedly characterize my game.”
This focused demeanor helped Valencia flourish during a six-year stint with Atlético Junior, where he made 112 starts and won two Colombian league titles. Valencia's exploits caught the eye of the Chivas coaching staff, who kept tabs on him for more than a year after he was introduced to assistant coach Carlos Llamosa through a mutual friend.
When making his decision to come to Carson, Valencia admits that the success of Colombians like Real Salt Lake defender Jámison Olave, teammate Juan Pablo Ángel and Llamosa were integral in bringing him to the league. Hoping to follow in Olave’s successful footsteps, Valencia believes that playing for Llamosa and head coach Robin Fraser — both former star defenders in their own right — will only help his transition to MLS.
“It’s great; they know the position and are two people who understand and lived the position,” said Valencia. “They were very good at what they did and they’re two who will understand and help me at what I do.”
The coaching staff has immediately taken to the burly defender, who shined in the first half of the club’s scrimmage against the Ventura County Fusion last week. Partnered alongside fellow behemoth trialist Rauwshan McKenzie, Valencia prevented the Fusion from generating offense with timely tackles and superior positioning during his 30 minutes of action.
As preseason wears on, Valencia will likely be partnered alongside defenders Heath Pearce and David Júnior Lopes as the club looks to solidify its back four. No matter what Valencia’s role is when Chivas open their season on March 11, based on his initial impression, the club expects great things from its newest addition.
“He’s a very, very engaged defender," Fraser told MLSsoccer.com. "He’s strong and he’s hard, he’s good with the ball and has good feet. He’s very much a leader and is bringing the things that we hoped he would as an experienced player with a long professional history. He’s shown us very quickly why he’s been a successful player and won championships.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org