CARSON, Calif. – As players streamed off the practice field in groups following a recent Chivas USA training session, Giovani Casillas was nowhere to be found.
Usually in the middle of it all on the pitch,the 19-year-old Mexican attacking midfielder took his time. He stretched and calmly walked to the bench, turning around to see that none of his teammates remained.
Yet one would be mistaken to think Casillas is an outcast here.
“Like the rest of my teammates, I’m here to contribute and I’m trying to be transcendent,” said Casillas who, along with Mario de Luna and Edgar Mejía was added to the roster on loan from sister club CD Guadalajara.
New Chivas USA manager José Luis Sánchez Solá’s eyes light up when he talks about the promising young player.
“He’s a jewel they have there in Guadalajara,” Sánchez Solá said. “By the necessities of the first team there, he doesn’t get minutes, but here he’ll have an opportunity to develop. A young player that doesn’t play stays behind.
"His competition level has to be high in order to progress, and the competition level in Mexico at the Under-20 level is too easy for him. It doesn’t fit him anymore. He needs these types of games, situations, challenges and responsibilities. Hopefully in May or December I’ll be able to turn in a much more mature Casillas.”
In 2011, Casillas was a key contributor for the Mexican side that captured the FIFA U-17 World Cup. He also scored a goal against FC Barcelona in Chivas Guadalajara's 4-1 World Football Challenge victory over the Spanish giants in Miami that summer.
Now, the Guadalajara-born Casillas intends to take the next step in his development.
“I’m going to get more experience here and I’m going to mature quicker,” Casillas said. “I hope to learn a lot from my teammates, especially the veterans. I hope to learn and follow their lead to continue my growth. Hopefully I play well enough to, God willing, head to Europe, but right now I’m trying to work hard each day with my sights set on this MLS season.”
Casillas had two goals and two assists this preseason while primarily occupying an attacking midfielder role next to fellow Goats newcomer Eric Avila. He is listed as a forward on the club’s official roster.
“I’m sure he’ll do great here,” Mejía said of Casillas. “He’s young but very complete as a player. He now has the experience of playing in Mexico’s First Division and has been working extremely well here.”
Casillas captured the heart of an entire country with a resounding goal at Estadio Azteca against Uruguay in the U-17 World Cup final, then debuted in Mexico’s top flight the following month before a knee injury sidetracked his progress.
Now, he is determined to live up to Sánchez Solá’s expectations.
“To know the coach has good things to say about me really makes me happy,” Casillas said. “It means I’m doing my job well, but also drives me to keep working. ... We need to win the first game and hopefully come out as league champions. Then, if another opportunity arises from it, we can think about the future."