GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Los Angeles-born and one of Chivas USA's first homegrown products to make the club's first team, Gerson Mayen fits the archetypal player the club's co-owner Jorge Vergara seemed to be talking about this week when announcing plans for the future of the struggling franchise.
But lack of first-team minutes at the US branch of the Rebaño Sagrado forced the 23-year-old midfielder out of his hometown club in 2011, leaving him to forge a career elsewhere. After stints with the Montreal Impact and Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the NASL, Mayen took up an opportunity this past July in his parents' native El Salvador, with first-division giants FAS.
The move has worked out for Mayen, who has impressed fans and pundits in the Central American country. For Mayen though, the success is simply down to getting regular minutes, something he was unable to find at Chivas USA.
“I didn't have that chance to show myself and I think here I'm taking advantage of that,” Mayen told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday from El Salvador.
From down south, Mayen is an avid follower of the progress of Chivas USA and is optimistic about future plans for a club that is still clearly close to his heart.
The former US U-20 international believes that plans for a stadium in Exposition Park near downtown Los Angeles, a neighborhood he knows well, would be good for the club.
“It's right around the corner from my house,” he said. “There are a lot of Salvadorans and a lot of Mexicans and for sure a lot of Mexicans are going to come out and if there is a Salvadoran on that team, they'll support.”
Mayen also thinks the promotion of young, local talent from the Los Angeles area can serve the club, only lamenting, “I wish I was there! But I just have to keep working hard and hopefully doors open up soon.”
But Mayen has been there, risen through the Los Angeles soccer scene and played 20 times in MLS. He opines that, in his experience, there also must be room for experienced heads in the dressing room. He points to the major influence veterans like Jesse Marsch and Ante Jazic had on his career coming up the Chivas USA youth ranks.
As for an eventual return, Mayen makes no secret of the fact he wants another chance to prove himself in MLS one day and seems to be on the right track in El Salvador.
FAS currently lie in fourth place in El Salvador's first division off the back of a seven-game unbeaten run in which Mayen has started six matches. He's currently enjoying a purple patch of form that he hopes will lead to a call-up from the El Salvador national team next year.
“Being here opens doors,” said Mayen. “The national team can look at you, if you do well. That's what I'm hoping for.”
Although the Salvadoran first division may not have the glamor of other leagues, Mayen is keen to emphasize that starting games and getting minutes is no guarantee for an American playing there, especially at big clubs like FAS and Águila.
“People probably think it's really easy down here, but I feel like you have to adapt to do well,” he said.
Part of that adaption is to the slower pace and more technical nature of the play, getting used to the cultural aspects of Salvadoran soccer and conserving hard-earned dollars.
Mayen says he makes enough money to get by in El Salvador, but that his wage wouldn't go too far back up north. But money, he says, isn't his primary concern right now.
“I came here not for the money but for the playing time, and that's what I'm getting,” he emphasized.
It's a refreshing outlook for a modern soccer player and says a lot about the hunger Mayen has to rebuild his career and achieve very specific goals: Get into that El Salvador squad and one day return to MLS.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.