CARSON, Calif. – Like all young players, Miller Bolaños is hungry for the opportunity to prove himself on the field.
What sets the 21-year-old midfielder apart from the rest, however, is the journey that brought him to Chivas USA.
Bolaños (above, center) joined Chivas USA in the offseason on a season-long loan from Ecuadorian club LDU Quito after spending his entire six-year career in the Ecuadorian Serie A. Considered one of the brightest young talents in Ecuador, Bolaños — who can contribute as winger, attacking midfielder and a withdrawn striker — believes that he can be the game changer the Goats have been seeking to reverse their fortunes.
“I bring my own game,” the soft-spoken Bolaños told MLSsoccer.com last week. “I’m really anxious to start the season and show everyone what I’m capable of. I lived a long time in Ecuador and I really wanted to make a move to put my name out there and this was something that I really wanted to pursue.”
Joining Bolaños on the Chivas roster is countryman and tenacious midfielder Oswaldo Minda, who is already familiar with the Bolaños clan. He played alongside Miller’s eldest brother Alex while with Deportivo Quito and the Ecuadorian national team.
“[Miller is] considered one of the best young players in Ecuador; his presence has left a very important mark on Ecuador and we’re all hoping that he’ll continue that,” Minda told MLSsoccer.com last week. “He’s going to be a tremendous asset to this team.”
There is more to his story than just talent, however. Even if it’s the part Bolaños might like to forget.
Born in Ecuador’s Esmeraldas Province, Bolaños quickly rose through the ranks at one of the country’s most decorated clubs, Barcelona SC. Known for his ball control, speed and powerful shot, he also became a fixture for Ecuador’s Under-17 team.
But in October 2007 he stumbled. He was slapped with a two-year suspension by the Ecuadorean federation after a positive test for recreational drug use. The suspension was eventually reduced to six months and Bolaños did his time, but it was a part of his career that he’s still reluctant to discuss, more than four years after the incident.
The suspension, however, certainly did not mark the end of his career. He remained with Barcelona for the duration of 2008 and eventually signed in 2009 with LDU Quito, helping the club to a Copa Sudamericana title in 2009 and a Serie A title in 2010.
“He’s a young kid and, sometimes when you’re young, you make mistakes,” Minda said. “But as time goes by, you understand how life is and it helps you mature. As a countryman, I try to help him out and help him comply with the team’s rules. He’s assimilating to the team and getting into shape. Hopefully, he’ll develop within the team.”
Chivas USA knew all about the previous drug suspension when they signed Bolaños, but it wasn’t a deterrent them from adding him to the squad.
“He has the potential to be a great soccer player,” Chivas USA general manager Jose Domene told MLSsoccer.com. “We interviewed him, and the past had to do with him being a kid and maybe some friendships, but that is why he is here.
“I don't want to call it a second chance, but he is here to prove that he is really good and can be with the national team.” he added. “I think that he could be a fan favorite.”
Part of what made Chivas attractive to Bolaños. meanwhile, was the presence of veteran players who can serve as mentors to the emerging young midfielder.
Along with Minda, forward Juan Pablo Ángel and defender John Alexander Valencia have already stepped up to help the youngster adapt to his new surroundings.
“It’s always important for a young player to play with such experienced players,” Bolaños said. “They’ve spoken with me to make sure that I’m content here, and I’m waiting for the opportunity to play with them.”
Bolaños made his first appearance with the club on Tuesday, starting and playing the first 30 minutes of a preseason scrimmage against the Montreal Impact. He’s still working on his full fitness as the team’s season opener on March 11 looms in a little less than a month, with an eye fixed on fitting into head coach Robin Fraser’s fast-paced, possession-oriented system.
And as Bolaños learns the finer points of the Rojiblancos game plan, Minda is optimistic that not only will he find on the field success at The Home Depot Center, but peace off the field as well.
“The important thing is that this is a good city where he’ll be able to relax and enjoy soccer as well as family,” Minda said. “It’s a place where I think he’ll be happy.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com.