Rejuvenation is in full effect at Chivas USA under new head coach Robin Fraser.
The club acquired Heath Pearce from FC Dallas on Tuesday in exchange for allocation money, the latest sign that team seeks to build a formidable defense after missing the postseason last year.
A standout at Dallas and US international, Pearce was one of the finest attacking full backs in the league before suffering an injury that limited his play down the stretch. The injury also caused him to miss FC Dallas’ run to the MLS Cup Final.
Pearce has only been in Chivas USA colors a few days, but he’s already managed to impress his new boss, with Fraser labeling the acquisition a “luxury” in a recent interview. The trust that Fraser has shown from the outset has not been lost on Pearce.
"It’s always nice to come into a place where you feel wanted and you feel that people trust and believe in you," Pearce told MLSSoccer.com. "Hopefully, I’ll be able to prove my worth in training with my work ethic and I’ll be able to get on the field.”
The 26-year-old fills a major hole on the left side for Chivas USA after the departure of Jonathan Bornstein to Mexican league side Tigres UNAL. Pearce had a stand-out 2010, tallying six assists in 28 games played for FC Dallas. In addition to playing left back, Pearce also played right back and in midfield during FCD’s run to the MLS Cup Final last season.
The defender comes with a host of experience after playing in Europe for several seasons with for Denmark's Nordsjaelland and Germany's Hansa Rostock. Pearce has also been a major contributor for Bob Bradley’s US national team over the past cycle.
Fellow newcomer Jimmy Conrad, himself a veteran of the national team, is excited to see a player of Pearce’s skill and versatility join him on the back line.
“I think any time you can add a quality player to your team, you don't think twice about it,” Conrad said. “What's good about Heath is he can play multiple positions…He's young, has experience and has good confidence about him. I think he's going to make for hard choices for the coaching staff, and that's ultimately what you want.”
Depth along the outside back positions is vital for Chivas USA in 2011. Throughout the preseason, the Rojiblancos have started rookie Zarek Valentin on the right and veteran Ante Jazic at the left back position.
Valentin, who has performed well in preseason, is expected to miss substantial time this summer if the United States qualifies for the 2011 U-20 World Cup. By bringing in Pearce, Fraser will have another option to place on the outside in case of absence or injury.
While Pearce’s addition creates a number of positives for Chivas USA, what is most important to the player himself is to earn a spot on the field. After watching from the sidelines as FC Dallas fell in MLS Cup, Pearce is motivated to erase those difficult memories and help create a winning culture at Chivas USA.
"As proud as I was of [FC Dallas] last year, it’s never fun to watch on the sideline," said Pearce. “Coming to Chivas, it’s a big motivator to stay fit and stay healthy and hopefully compete for a spot. And if I play to play well and just to help the team win essentially that’s what it is all about.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano