SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It’s no secret that Chivas USA have been looking for an impact forward to come in and help score goals, or at the very least, help create them.
This past Saturday in the team’s first victory of the year, a 2-1 come-from-behind road victory over the San Jose Earthquakes, they may have found their man. And, it turns out, he’d been on the roster all along.
Justin Braun, the leading scorer for the Rojiblancos in 2010, has spent the early part of the season playing along the flanks. While Braun was active in these stints, he struggled to have the same effect on the match that he enjoyed last season.
On Saturday, however, the story was significantly different with Braun coming on as a sub and making an immediate impact. Playing alongside Alejandro Moreno in the forward spot, Braun got behind the San Jose defense several times leading up to the 85th minute break when Braun’s parried shot fell to Mariano Trujillo, who knocked home the game winning goal.
Following the match, head coach Robin Fraser was asked where Braun’s best position was, and may have finally put an end to any intrigue of where Braun will play.
“Probably playing up top,” said Fraser. “At the end of the day, Justin is a 6-foot-3 guy who is very fast, and he will always be a handful for central defenders to deal with. I think in the end, that’s probably his best spot.”
The match against San Jose was Braun’s first action in a week. He’d missed Chivas USA’a previous match, a scoreless draw with Vancouver, with a slight groin strain. The injury was Braun’s first since an achilles laceration that forced him out of the US national team camp in January and caused him to miss the start of preseason.
These setbacks have forced Braun to fight for his spot in the starting XI, with Fraser choosing to place Moreno, Marcos Mondaini and Victor Estupinan up top. After his energetic performance against San Jose, Braun said he will be patient for opportunities to play, be it at forward or anywhere on the field.
“That is where I’ve been playing so I definitely feel comfortable there, but as long as I’m on the field I’m happy,” said Braun. “You want to be on the field every week, so you’ve got to fight for your spot. I’ve been dealing with some injuries, so I’m just trying to get healthy and move forward from here.”
In light of the recent Benny Feilhaber saga and the club’s well-known desire to add another forward during the summer transfer window, there seems to be added pressure on Braun to perform.
But the forward admitted that he disregards any speculation, instead choosing to focus on the bigger goal of helping Chivas USA win games.
“You let that [speculation] go," he said. "Coaches are looking to bring in players that want to help this team win, and in the end that’s what it is about. [It’s about] winning, it’s not a personal thing. So if they decide to bring in a forward that’s going to help us score goals and win games, then I’ll be just as happy as the team is.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano