CARSON, Calif. – Defender Rauwshan McKenzie has waited patiently for his chance to be a first-choice center back in MLS, and after his first start since last September, the veteran is doing what he can to lock down a starting job with Chivas USA.
McKenzie was thrust into the starting role for the Goats on Sunday when incumbent starter John Alexander Valencia went down with a quadriceps strain just days before the season opener.
In his just the 12th start of his four-year career, McKenzie was solid alongside Heath Pearce, using his physicality to help break down Houston attacks. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough as a stoppage-time goal proved the difference in the Rojiblancos’ 1-0 loss to the MLS Cup 2011 finalists.
McKenzie may not have been able to help Chivas to a result, but he was encouraged with the performance.
“They told me that I could get the start so I just started preparing for it,” McKenzie told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “And I got the chance so I was looking for it. There were definitely some positives, there was some good defending, we had some good chances and everyone put in 110 percent, so that’s good to see. We just have to pick up and change a couple things then keep going.”
Following the match against Houston, head coach Robin Fraser told reporters that Valencia was in consideration to start against the Dynamo despite the quad strain, but the Rojiblancos boss chose to go with McKenzie.
While Valencia, if healthy, is expected to regain his spot in the starting lineup, McKenzie promises to do all that he can to make Fraser’s choice a difficult one.
“Yeah, I’m definitely going to keep working hard,” said McKenzie. “Anything is possible so I’m going to keep improving every day and you never know what will happen.”
McLain wins reserve ‘keeper role
Stellar goalkeeping has been a hallmark of Chivas USA since the days of Brad Guzan, and after locking down Tim Melia to serve as Dan Kennedy’s backup, the Rojiblancos believe that they’ve added another quality goalkeeper in Patrick McClain.
Both Fraser and general manager Jose Domene have confirmed the signing of the 23-year-old, which is expected to be made official within the week.
The rookie joins Chivas from Cal Poly, where he starred for the Mustangs in earning All-Big West second team selections for three consecutive years. Throughout the preseason, McClain was locked in a battle with Supplemental Draft pick Brian Rowe, but over the past several weeks pulled ahead of his counterpart.
Fraser admitted that while both players were solid, a decision had to be made.
“I think they both have good professional futures,” Fraser recently told reporters. “If you ask us where we are today, maybe Patrick's a step ahead in our eyes. They're both very good, but we have to make a decision.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com