CARSON, Calif. – Whether by design or not, it appears Chivas USA will have to wait for newcomer Adolfo “Bofo” Bautista to make his much-anticipated splash in Major League Soccer.
The animated forward’s MLS debut last weekend saw him used as a second-half substitute, an appearance that matched what head coach Wilmer Cabrera envisioned all preseason with Bautista working to reach fitness.
“He came in different shape; he’s used to playing in a different environment,” Cabrera told reporters recently. “Here, it’s more physical and athletic, so he needs to get adjusted. We don’t want to throw him in right away, because that wouldn’t help him and it wouldn’t help us. That wouldn’t help the team. The idea is not to throw guys out there. The idea is to throw them in when they are 100 percent ready.”
Bautista came on for fellow league debutant Leandro Barrera in the 65th minute of Chivas USA’s dramatic 3-2 victory against the Chicago Fire on Sunday. About 20 minutes after taking the pitch, the 34-year-old showed a glimpse of what he could mean for the Goats this season from a playmaking standpoint, sending a dangerous shot to the far post that was just beyond the reach of forward Erick “Cubo” Torres.
Four others besides Bautista and Barrera made their league debut for the Rojiblancos on Sunday – Agustín Pelletieri, Thomas McNamara, Luke Moore and Daniel Fragoso – but none carried the buzz or fanfare that Bofo generated when he signed in January.
“I’m very happy to have played those important minutes,” Bautista told reporters Sunday. “I took positive steps, and now I’m waiting to give more minutes to keep helping this team.”
Bautista said he felt fine physically and credited a strong preseason for helping him adjust to the pace. Cabrera said recently that every Chivas USA player “should be able to play 90 minutes,” and Bautista suggested it will not take long for him to find his groove.
“The league here has grown a lot,” Bautista said. “They play good football here. It’s physical and they run a lot, so it will be important to adapt quickly.”