CARSON, Calif. — Rauwshan McKenzie knows that he is capable central defender, but has struggled to lock down steady minutes in his four-year MLS career. But after years of searching, McKenzie thinks that he’s finally found a place where he can stick.
Chivas USA announced on Wednesday that they have signed the 25-year-old center back, further bolstering the club’s depth along the back line. In his stints with Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, McKenzie has managed just 11 career appearances, but head coach Robin Fraser is hopeful his new signing will pan out for the Goats.
“I think if you look at his career, if he may have landed in some other places, maybe it would have been a little different, because he does have a lot of ability,” Fraser told reporters on Monday. “I think he's definitely got the ability to be a good defender in MLS, and we're glad we have the opportunity to have him.”
The Chivas boss is familiar with the burly center back, having spent the 2010 season as his assistant coach while with Real Salt Lake. MLS Best XI-performances from Nat Borchers and Jámison Olave relegated McKenzie to the bench that year, but Fraser still came away with an appreciation for the defender’s work. Faced with a need to reinforce the Rojiblancos’ back four for the 2012 campaign, the coach quickly called up his former charge about an opportunity to come to Southern California.
McKenzie has been quick to repay Fraser’s faith, impressing the coaching staff and his teammates during his four appearances for Chivas USA this preseason.
“It’s exciting, it’s been a month-and-a-half of preseason and I’m happy that it’s done,” McKenzie told MLSsoccer.com of his new deal on Monday. “The guys have been great so it’s been easy to integrate into the team and I’m just looking forward to the season to start.”
And certainly having a familiar face on the coaching staff hasn’t hurt, either.
“This is the first time that I’ve had a defensive coach,” a smiling McKenzie said. “It’s easy to understand what he’s talking about and he obviously helps me because he played the position when he was playing, so it’s a bit easier than having like a forward as a coach.”
The ink finally dry on his new deal with Chivas, McKenzie can now focus on trying to break into a deep defensive corps. When the season begins, McKenzie is expected serve as a back-up to starting central defenders John Alexander Valencia and Heath Pearce.
“Those guys are more experienced than I am,” McKenzie said. “So I just try to learn from them every day in practice. I've obviously got to keep working hard and hope when the opportunity comes that I'm ready to go.”
ROMERO, VAGENAS SIGNED AS WELL
In addition to McKenzie, Chivas added 22-year-old Mexican-American striker Cesar Romero and 33-year-old veteran midfielder Peter Vagenas to the roster. Both players have been regulars in preseason.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.