CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA kicked off their preseason training camp on Monday and amongst the faces – both new and old – was a figure that the Rojiblancos hope will play a major role in the upcoming campaign.
Forward Juan Pablo Ángel was present for the first day of training despite not yet having a deal in place to return for his sixth MLS season. Believing that a deal to return to Chivas is certain, Ángel felt it was important to begin preseason with the club.
“I wanted to start preseason from day one,” Ángel told reporters. “There are still minor details to take care of, but the will from both sides is there and we hope that over the next few days everything is going to be sorted out. I’m very optimistic.”
Ángel is not the only important face to show himself on the first day of the preseason, as winger Ryan Smith — who was brought into the fold at the end of the 2011 season via trade from Sporting Kansas City — also was present. So were a pair of new signings in midfielder Marvin Iraheta and goalkeeper Tim Melia.
Iraheta, 19, is a former US Developmental Academy Player of the Year who spent the last few years in the New York Cosmos academy, even joining the Cosmos select team that took on Manchester United in the Paul Scholes testimonial. The 25-year-old Melia, meanwhile, spent the last two seasons with Real Salt Lake.
Aside from his new additions, Chivas head coach Robin Fraser has also decided to bring several trialists into preseason camp, including MLS veterans Rauwshan MacKenzie and Ciaran O’Brien, as well as Mexican league veterans Pablo Sandoval and Mario Ledezma.
With Chivas USA looking to add further depth along the back line, MacKenzie is the most intriguing figure at the moment.
“He’s a very solid defender,” said Fraser. “He’s another person that I’ve had experience with. He’s strong, he’s physical, a good passer and a player that can really contest for things here.”
Not present in camp were recent signings Oswaldo Minda and Miller Bolaños, as well as veterans David Júnior Lopes and Blair Gavin. The South American trio of Minda, Bolaños and Lopes are currently awaiting visas, while Gavin is currently away from the club on a personal leave of absence.
Although his roster is far from complete, Fraser has a a heavy work load planned for the start of preseason camp. In the first week back, the Rojiblancos will focus primarily on fitness work and undergo double sessions every other day.
There is a great amount of work to be done in the weeks leading up the team’s season opener on March 11 against the Houston Dynamo, but Fraser was encouraged by what he saw on the club’s first day back to the grind.
“The attitude is great,” said Fraser. “The mentality is right and guys understand that they are here to battle. That’s been a big focus for us and we feel like we have a competitive group.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.