After an entire year away from the game of soccer, Alex Zotinca has returned to the pitch. The 33-year-old utility defender has joined Chivas USA this week as a trialist with the club.
Zotinca had been on the roster with the Red-and-White in 2007 and 2008, but was waived by the club in November 2008.
“There are a ton of emotions coming back,” said Zotinca after practice on Monday. “I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Chivas thought about me as an option for the season. I’ll work hard and we’ll see if they have a deal for me.”
Though behind in his fitness, Zotinca has looked solid in his first few practices with the club. He feels comfortable under new Chivas USA head coach Martín Vásquez, whom he knows from when Vásquez was an assistant with the club in 2007.
“I’m happy to be back with Martín,” said Zotinca. “I’m happy that he got the opportunity to be the head guy. I think he’s doing a tremendous job.”
Zotinca, Romanian by birth, got his start in professional soccer with clubs FC Inter Sibiu and Romanian powerhouse Steaua Bucharest, for whom he appeared in the UEFA Cup. He then moved to the U.S. where he played indoor soccer with the Kansas City Comets before joining the Kansas City Wizards in 2003.
“Alex brings us experience,” said Vásquez. “He’s got good qualities and he’s a professional. He also knows the players and teams in this league, and that’s a big plus.”
Though perhaps best-known as a right back, Zotinca can play anywhere in defense. His versatility will serve Chivas USA well as the team adapts to a defensive core that includes new players Michael Umaña and Carlos Borja, and returning goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
“I could be filling in for a few different spots,” said Zotinca. “As long as I am fit, I can help out.”
Chivas USA have yet to fill all their roster spots, which leaves space open for a potential contract with Zotinca. And given his veteran calm and leadership in practices thus far, Goats fans may see him in red-and-white stripes before too long.
“He looks good so far,” said Vásquez. “We have another two weeks [before the April 15 transfer deadline] to make a decision, but if he gets fit, I believe he can help us.”