The hard work, sweat and patience have finally paid off for new Chivas USA forward Chris Cortez.
After being officially signed by Chivas on Sunday, the striker made his professional debut just hours later and went 21 minutes in the Rojiblancos’ 3-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls.
A former member of the Chivas USA U-18 team, Cortez has shined for the reserve squad in 2011, scoring four goals in four matches. After the suspension to Marcos Mondaini, Cortez received his opportunity to officially join the club and was immediately placed on the traveling roster for the match at New York.
For the young forward, the opportunity to start his career with Chivas was a dream come true.
“I’m really excited,” said a jovial Cortez after the match. "It was a lot of fun, a high-energy game to jump into. It felt great and it was just a dream come true."
Against RBNY, Cortez was placed as a lone forward as Chivas USA looked to preserve the result over the game’s final 20 minutes. He performed well, providing a physical presence late in the match, and even picked up a yellow card in the 81st minute for a foul on Red Bulls defender Tim Ream.
Cortez will now look to build on the performance, most likely providing depth for incumbent starters Justin Braun and Alejandro Moreno.
The journey back to the Rojiblancos was not a simple one for Cortez, as traveled to several different locales before finally becoming a professional soccer player. He started his college career at the University of California, then ended up with Pachuca in Mexico. The Tuzos owned his rights prior to Chivas — where he finally landed early in the preseason.
It has been a bit of an odyssey.
“Things just fell into place this week,” said an almost disbelieving Cortez, "and all of a sudden I saw my name on the travel list, and I just finished playing a game against the Red Bulls."
His debut sparked a moment of reminiscence for the man he replaced in the 69th minute: Braun, Sunday's hat-trick hero.
“I was very happy for him to get his first minutes,” Braun told MLSsoccer.com. “I know it was a huge moment for any player and it made me remember the first time that I stepped on the field. He gave us what we needed to help preserve the win. He’s done well with the reserves and now he’s got his opportunity.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano