CARSON, Calif. — Though youth has been the focus early in the tenure of Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser, the Rojiblancos have brought in a couple of veterans to add experience to their ranks.
The club announced on Wednesday the signing of midfielder Simon Elliott and defender Andrew Boyens. Both players boast previous MLS experience, and both traveled to South Africa last summer with the New Zealand national team.
“These signings give us depth and experience in the middle of the field,” Fraser said in a statement. “I have known Simon for a long time; he’ll be able to help us both on and off the field, and we saw in the World Cup last summer what he’s capable of. Andrew is a solid central defender with international experience who will be a good addition to our back line.”
The Kiwis began their Chivas trials over the weekend and saw their first action with the club in Monday's 1-0 defeat of the San Jose Earthquakes. Though Alan Gordon secured the winner in the second of the three 35-minute periods, the focus was squarely on Elliot and Boyens.
Boyens (pictured above), formerly of the New York Red Bulls, lined up in his familiar center back position and saw a great deal of time in the final 70 minutes of the match. Elliott, meanwhile, played 35 minutes in a holding role that allowed Chivas USA to control possession against the Quakes early on in the match.
The last year has been something of a topsy-turvy one for Boyens. The defender was on the New Zealand World Cup squad but did not see time for the All Whites in their unbeaten run in South Africa last summer.
However, after he returned to New York, he was used sparingly by head coach Hans Backe and found it difficult to make an impact, which led to his eventual release during the offseason.
With an impressive year for his country behind him, Boyens hopes this year marks a return to club success.
“I want a season where I can be a bit more consistent,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “I was away for a bit of time last year and it will be a nice to have a club-team year as opposed to national-team year, which the last few years have been.
“I’d like to play here for the year, but I don’t want to expect too much,” added Boyens. “I want a clean slate and I want to be able to perform and have my chance to play.”
[inline_node:292452]Elliott said he's looking for a successful club year after a banner international campaign.
Cut by San Jose in the 2010 preseason, Elliott trained with the LA Galaxy prior to playing in all three matches in South Africa for the All-Whites. He impressed many with the Kiwis and finished the year with his hometown club, Wellington Phoenix of the A-League.
Elliott is a known quantity to Fraser, who played with the midfielder at the Galaxy and Columbus Crew. With the international pedigree and past MLS experience, Fraser believes that the Kiwi duo of Boyens and Elliott could be of great benefit to his young side.
“As we’re trying to rebuild, it’s important that we surround our good young players with experienced players, and both of those guys have played quite a few games,” said Fraser. “You look at Simon and I think he was New Zealand’s best player in the World Cup last year. … I think he has a tremendous understanding of the game and could bring a lot to the team.”
The other big news for the Rojiblancos was the return of Blair Gavin to the pitch on Monday.
Despite having been out since July with a hamstring strain, the midfielder looked spry in his first action in more than five months, sparking attacks for Chivas USA while he was on the field. But he was the first to admit that there is still a long way for him to go before regaining the impressive form he had early last season.
“I still need game fitness and the only way that I can do that is to play, so I would say that I’m at 75 percent right now,” said Gavin. “Hopefully, I can continue to play some more games when we go to Arizona and I’ll get [fully fit] soon.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano