Turnover has been one of the key storylines in Chivas USA’s offseason. Left back Ante Jazic, however, isn’t going anywhere.
With a team-leading seven assists in 28 appearances, the 36-year-old Jazic enjoyed his finest MLS season yet, his renaissance even allowing him to reclaim a spot on the Canadian national team.
“I know at my age, I don’t have too much time left so I enjoy every minute that I can be a professional soccer player,” Jazic told MLSsoccer.com via phone on Wednesday. “Every game is a special game for me and I take it day by day and enjoy the game, giving a 100 percent and hopefully that’s good enough.”
Benefitting from head coach Robin Fraser’s possession style of play, the left back was able to terrorize opposing defenses while also serving as a leader to a defense that was in a constant state of flux last season. Jazic will likely be tasked with doing the same in 2012 as he and centerback Heath Pearce are the only holdovers in the Rojiblancos’ revamped backline.
Zarek Valentin and Michael Umaña — regulars in 2011 — have been replaced by James Riley and John Alexander Valencia on the right side of the defense, while Oswaldo Minda looks set for the defensive midfielder role. With a new more experienced defensive group, Jazic believes the Rojiblancos will have every chance to succeed.
“The left side is the same with Heath and myself, and now you have two new players on the right side,” Jazic said. “James and John coming in, they’re both good players. James is an experienced player who knows the league, and John is a good player. But we have the issue of the language barrier, which will come.
“It’ll take time, but they’re both good pros. It may be a work in progress, but we’ll get there. We’re hoping to be on the same page before Sunday.”
Even with his performance last season, however, Jazic’s place in Fraser’s starting lineup isn’t guaranteed. To maintain his spot along the left side of the defense, he will need to hold off a charge from Jorge Villafaña, who will deputize for the Canadian international this season. With Villafaña striving to make the US squad for the London Olympics, the 22-year-old will be pushing the elder Jazic for minutes.
But regardless of the challenge, Jazic is confident that he can maintain his starting role with Chivas USA.
“The club has done a good job bringing multiple players in so that there is competition for spots, that’s something that I’ve dealt with my whole career,” Jazic said. “Jorge can play left back or left midfield and he’s done well this preseason. There are a lot of games and everyone must come ready to play. Healthy competition is always good because it keeps you sharp when there is a guy behind you who is ready to play and capable. ”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GET TICKETS to Chivas USA vs. Houston Dynamo, Sunday, March 11, 2012, 7 pm ET at The Home Depot Center. Watch it on Galavision.