University of South Carolina goalkeeper Brad Guzan was chosen as Club Deportivo Chivas USA's first-ever pick in the MLS SuperDraft, whose 2005 edition was held Friday at the Baltimore Convention Center.
The 20-year-old, six-foot-four, 210-pound goalkeeper was the second overall pick in the four-round Draft. Together with Guzan, Chivas USA selected three standout Mexican-American players, all products of the Southern California soccer scene: creative midfielder Christian Jimenez (San Dimas, California), defender-midfielder Aaron Lopez (Santa Barbara , California) and defender Esteban Arias (Bakersfield, California).
Club Deportivo Chivas USA Head Coach Thomas Rongen thus returns to California with a positive balance of four promising young players, among them Guzan and Jimenez, who as members of the soccer development program "Generation adidas" will not count as part of Chivas USA's 18-man roster; and at the same time, three talented multipositional players of Mexican heritage, all with local connections.
"I feel that Brad epitomizes the modern goalkeeper: very comfortable with his feet, great size, very athletic. He's a guy who has the potential in the right environment to become a very good goalkeeper. And if there's one position in which [the U.S.] is very good, it's in goal," said Rongen. "We're also pleased to have chosen a left-footed player in Christian [Jimenez]; a central player who can play in the back but also as a holding midfielder in Aaron Lopez; and Esteban Arias, who can play on the left and the right sides in the back. I'm very happy with what we accomplished today."
The 20-year-old Guzan leaves the University of South Carolina after two seasons in which he played every minute of every game and earned the captain's armband in 2004, season in which he was named semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the nation's best college soccer player. The former U.S. U-18 national teamer and native of the Chicago suburbs is rated as an excellent shot-stopper and skilled with his feet, and is also a member of Generation adidas, a program which gives financial and educational support to talented young players in the United States.
"Words can't describe how excited I am. I'm thrilled to be part of a new organization. Going in, I know I'm going to have to learn some Spanish and meet my new teammates. I'm really looking forward to it," said Guzan. "I know that Chivas has a big fan base, and that it's known around the world as a great club. I'm looking forward to being part of such a great tradition."
With their second selection (14th overall), Chivas USA picked 18-year-old midfielder Christian Jimenez of the University of South Florida. Like Guzan, a member of Generation adidas, the creative midfielder and former U.S. U-17 and U-18 national team player -- who has already trained with Head Coach Bruce Arena's full national side -- leaves college early after one season in which he started 15 of 17 matches, recording three goals and four assists. Jimenez' parents are from Guadalajara in Jalisco state, the homeland of Chivas.
With their third pick (26th overall), the Red-and-White chose 21-year-old defender-midfielder Aaron Lopez of the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA). Born in Michoacán, neighboring state to Jalisco, Lopez grew up in Santa Barbara and had a standout career at UCLA, where he played defensive midfielder and was an undisputed starter in his final three of four seasons, starting 62 of 64 matches. In 2002 he scored the winning goal in the dying seconds of the NCAA College Cup, a trophy he lifted with Chivas USA forward Matt Taylor. In 2004, Lopez was named a Hermann Trophy semifinalist.
With its fourth and final pick (38th overall), Chivas USA chose 22-year-old defender Esteban Arias of the University of Connecticut. Born in Bakersfield, California to a father from the state of Nayarit, Mexico and a Mexican-American mother from Texas, the defender played the final three years of his university eligibility with UConn, where he started 39 games in his last two years.
With its roster nearly complete and eagerly awaiting the official presentation of its players from Guadalajara, Club Deportivo Chivas USA now focuses on preseason, set to begin the first week of February. For more information on Major League Soccer's new Mexican-owned expansion franchise as it gears up for its MLS debut on April 2, call 1-877-CHIVAS-1 or visit www.CDCHIVASUSA.com.