CARSON, Calif. – Defender Jimmy Conrad has a new team and a new jersey, but he will open up the 2011 surrounded by familiar faces, as Chivas USA face Conrad’s old club – albeit under a new name.
The defender has quickly taken the leadership role at Chivas USA since being selected in the Re-Entry draft and will likely be named captain for the Rojiblancos when they take the field against Sporting on Saturday at the Home Depot Center.
Conrad made a total of 204 appearances for Kansas City during regular-season matches, and another 11 appearances in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The longtime captain and arguably the face of the Wizards franchise, Conrad admits that it’ll be just like old times when he lines up against his old teammates.
“It’s going to feel like a practice that I’ve been doing for the last eight years,” Conrad told MLSsoccer.com. “There’s not really that many familiar faces from all the eight years. … I’ll be happy to see the guys because I want them to do well – just not on Chivas’ dime.”
The veteran has fit in immediately with Chivas USA, serving as a mentor for young players like rookie Zarek Valentin as well as Ghanaian newcomer Seth Owusu. Throughout the preseason, both newcomers have praised Conrad for helping them to refine their games and integrate themselves into MLS.
When the match begins, Conrad will have the task of stopping Kansas City forwards Omar Bravo and Kei Kamara, who lead a Sporting attack that has the potential to be one of the best in the league. Bravo is a former Chivas de Guadalajara facing off against the sister club.
Conrad is focused on earning a result so that the young team can start the season off on the proper note. However, while Conrad will lead Chivas USA on the field against Sporting, the veteran defender will have no role in developing the game plan against his former teammates.
“The [coaching staff] is pretty bright and I assume that they have things down pat,” said Conrad. “And I don’t think Kansas City has changed all that much. In terms of their formation and how they want to move, it’ll be pretty similar and our staff is familiar with that. I can probably give them some insight into the strengths and weakness of some guys, but I think we have it down.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano