CARSON, Calif. – Tristan Bowen’s long road back from obscurity seemed to take a turn for the better, but for the 21-year-old it was simply a reminder of how much distance still lies ahead of him.
Bowen made his season debut, playing the final 29 minutes in Chivas USA’s 1-1 draw at Colorado and contributing the game-tying assist .
It was an important, yet ultimately unsatisfactory, achievement.
WATCH: Bowen sets up Angel to tie game
“I have a goal in mind that I want to accomplish for the rest of the season and that’s to play every game and to make myself a starter,” Bowen told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m at the age where just coming into the game for 30 minutes is not enough for me. I want to get in every game, be effective and show this organization that I’m a value for them.”
Last summer, a foreign club placed value in Bowen and eventually worked out a deal with Chivas for his services. Bowen joined Belgacom League outfit KSV Roeselare, and the Belgian second division became Bowen’s new home.
Out of sight and all but out of mind, Bowen initially struggled.
“It was very difficult in the sense that it was a new environment... new players, a new style of play – everything was new,” Bowen said. “On the field, I struggled a bit in the beginning figuring out how to play with those guys and just re-familiarizing myself with the game.”
Finding playing time was also a bit of a battle for Bowen, but once he acclimated himself to the culture, the soccer and his teammates, he found success and scored three goals for Roeselare.
“Towards the tail end of the season, I started to perform like everyone expected me to,” he said.
Confidence was just one of several things he picked up in Belgium.
“Coming off the loan, Tristan really learned a lot in terms of professionalism and in terms of how to play his position,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “He came back with a great attitude, stepped into reserve games and did well... He’s been progressing well.”
The soft-spoken Bowen said that, upon his return, he decided it best to show the coaching staff just how far he’d come playing in Belgium’s second division.
“I made it a goal of mine to come in here, work hard, be quiet about it and let my game show what I can do for the team,” Bowen said. “So far, I think the coaches have seen that I’ve grown from the time I’ve been gone and that I’ve matured both on and off the field.”
Part of his maturation process has included his ability to take a look at himself and maximize his skills. With that as a starting point, Bowen looks ahead with optimism.
"My first three years as a professional I had a hard time figuring out how to be effective with the skill sets that I have, just having confidence knowing that most players in the league can’t stop my speed,” he said. “Now I feel like I’m recognizing that. I’m starting to find new ways to get in behind defenders. It’s exciting because I’m seeing a level of success with it and I still know there’s tons of potential for growth there.”
Luis Bueno covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.