Bold. Brash. Confident.
These are the qualities all forwards need to have if they're going to be successful. And it appears that Chivas USA first-year forward Víctor Estupiñán has all three.
The 14th pick in the 2010 SuperDraft predicted he'd score 25 to 30 goals this season during an interview last month on the Tiro Libre podcast. The regular season has yet to start, but the Ecuadorian is now officially on the board, scoring in a preseason friendly against the Fresno Fuego of the PDL on Tuesday. And Estupiñán is clearly not backing down on his bold prediction.
“I said I wanted 30 and that’s what I want,” he told MLSsoccer.com. "I know that with hard work that anything can happen and nothing is impossible. I hope to be a champion with Chivas USA and for that, I’m working hard.”
That bold projection didn't go unnoticed by his new coach at Chivas USA. Not surprisingly, Robin Fraser is quick to temper any hype about a 30-goal season from his new forward.
"What can you say about the bravado of youth?” said Fraser. “I'm sure that Víctor has a lot of learning to do. He’s young and brash. He's an exciting player with a lot of good qualities. It'll be a learning process for him."
Estupiñán comes to the Rojiblancos with major scoring chops after leading the Ecuadorian reserve league in scoring in 2010 with LDU Quito. He impressed during the MLS Combine last month, displaying an impressive ability to both hold up the ball and make daring runs at defenders.
[inline_node:327532]Can he possibly score 25 to 30 goals? That remains to be seen – Mamadou Diallo's ridiculous haul of 26 in 2000 is still the record for an MLS newcomer, and is tied for the second-highest single-season total in league history.
And the learning curve will be steep for the confident striker, who joins a Goats squad that is eager for a reliable goal-scorer. Chivas USA have not had a double-digit scorer since 2007, when Maykel Galindo and Ante Razov scored 12 and 11 goals, respectively.
Since then, only Justin Braun has come close to meeting those marks with nine last season. Although the team is hungry for a scorer, Fraser knows it will take time for the rookie to adapt to the style of play in MLS.
"Anytime that you're a young professional going into a new environment, there will be changes like changes in demand and other things that you have to adapt to,” the first-year head coach said. “For him, like any young player, it won't be an easy adaptation process. He's got some special abilities and he should be alright."
The headstrong Ecuadorian joins a strike force that is eager to earn minutes in Fraser’s new system. Headlined by United States national team January camp invitee Braun, veterans Alan Gordon and Alejandro Moreno, as well as young Tristan Bowen, all will be eager to stake their claim up top.
And though Estupiñán is out of the gates with his first goal for his new club, Fraser and the rest of Chivas USA hope he saves his best for the regular season. Through all of the bold predictions and lofty expectations, it's the trust Fraser showed in drafting the 22-year-old that Estupiñán is most eager to prove.
“I’m here to earn his confidence," he said, "and show it on the field.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @adamserrano