While the Reserve League may not get the press or the glory, it's an integral part of Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser’s plans as he looks to keep his first team deep and game-ready.
Chivas USA opened up their reserve-league season on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps after a late goal by trialist Chris Cortez canceled out a goal by Omar Salgado.
“It’s interesting, because I think the first team looks a lot like the second team, which I think is a good thing,” Fraser said following the match. “Guys understand their roles whether they’re in the starting group or the second group.”
Players like Michael Umana, Gerson Mayen and Mariano Trujillo, who are verge of the first team, have opportunities to stay fresh.
“You have players in training and sometimes you’re not sure what you’re going to get in games, so you want to see if what you’re learning in practice is translating in games,” said Fraser. “The reserve league is critical. We’ve seen players like Gerson Mayén get into the lineup lately and he’s the example of a player that would really benefit because it’s real-life competition.”
Mayén is perhaps the perfect example of a player that can benefit the most from the reserve league as a potential direct route to more regular-season run. It should be no surprise that Mayén went the distance in the match against the Whitecaps on Sunday afternoon.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, those like Chivas USA U-18 players Ian Hines-Ike and Chris Rodriguez have their chances to participate in a professional environment alongside those near the first team. In the end, providing players with a chance to stay match-fit and develop outweighs a potential victory.
“Winning is something that you want to make part of your culture, but simultaneously, you have a little goals that you want to achieve,” said Fraser. “For instance, if a player comes back from injury and has a really good reserve game and you lose that reserve game, but that player plays every minute of every game, then that reserve game will have served its purpose.”
The Rojiblancos will return from British Columbia with several injuries. Justin Braun did not play in either match due to a slight groin strain. It is believed that he will be available for the club’s next match at San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano