Ben Zemanski's recovery from a meddlesome MCL sprain might not have gone as fast as he liked, but that's not stopping the tenacious midfielder from targeting a spot in the Chivas USA starting XI.
Zemanski made his first appearance for the Rojiblancos since April 14 when he came on as a second-half substitute during the club’s 2-1 US Open Cup victory over the Carolina RailHawks on Tuesday. After dealing with a right MCL sprain that plagued him for more than a month, Zemanski was active in 27 minutes of action against the NASL side.
“Oh man, it feels great to be back with my teammates,” a jubilant Zemanski told MLSsoccer.com after the Carolina match. "I was hoping to be back a few weeks ago, but it kept nagging and nagging so to finally be back on the field, I’m so happy."
Against the RailHawks, Zemanski was integral in Robin Fraser’s game plan as Chivas dealt with a late barrage from the NASL side. After coming on for Laurent Courtois in the 63rd minute, Zemanski was his usual busy self consistently pressuring Carolina's midfielders as Chivas dealt with their high-octane attack.
With the 24-year-old midfielder in the center of the park, Fraser’s side was able to quickly recover after conceding an equalizer in the 78th minute and eventually earn a victory that put them through to the Open Cup quarterfinals.
“He was a burst of energy and certainly he gave us a lift in terms of pressuring the ball,” Fraser told MLSsoccer.com. “His work rate is always greatly appreciated.”
The RailHawks match will not be the only gauge for Zemanski’s recovery this week – he is poised to play a major role in the club’s Reserve League match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Friday.
Although he is well aware that it won’t be easy to regain a starting position in a talented and deep Rojiblancos midfield, the hard-nosed Zemanski is ready to prove that he is up to the challenge.
“I’ve just got to work hard in practice and try to give the coaches a hard decision," he said. "We have a good group of guys and it’s a very hard-working team. It’s always going to be competitive so I just have to show what I can do to help the team.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.