Chijindu hoping to break into Chivas first XI

Forward says versatility will earn him a place in starting lineup

Chukwudi Chijindu

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It’s a new season for Chivas USA striker Chukwudi Chijindu. He’s confident, he’s healthy and he’s ready to help the Red-and-White make a run at the 2010 playoffs.

The second-year Fontana, Calif. native has featured in both of Chivas USA’s games this season as a late substitute, but has his sights set on a place in the starting XI. And if he continues to be as potentially dangerous in the attacking third as he has been thus far, it might not be too long before his name is on the team sheet.

“I feel good about my play,” said Chijindu after practice on Tuesday morning. “I came into this preseason pretty confident. I was hampered with injury last season and that slowed me down, but now my legs are back under me and I feel like whenever the coaches call my name, I’ll be ready to help the team in any way I can.”

Chijindu joined Chivas USA on April 3 of last year after impressing during the opening months of the season. He scored one goal and notched one assist in eleven appearances for the Red-and-White in 2009, and is relying on the experience of his rookie year to make him stronger in his sophomore MLS season.

“I learned a lot from my first year,” he said. “I learned that, at any given time, you can be called and thrown into the fire, and you have to be ready for that. If you’re not playing in the beginning, you have to still be ready because there are injuries and different tournaments that might get you put in. I learned that last year and I’ve changed my mindset in terms of just being ready at any time.”

While he’s happy with the contribution he’s made so far, Chijindu makes no secret of his desire to earn a starting nod for Chivas USA. He’s been doing some extra running after practices and is committed to making the required effort to break into the first team.

“I believe I have the ability to be a first-team player,” said Chijindu. “As long as I continue to believe that, I think it’s only a matter of time before it happens for me. I respect the coaches' decision to put their first XI out there, but at the same time, I want to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully I’ll break into that first XI.”

While Chijindu has been a striker in both his appearances this season, he was used in more of a utility role last year. He often saw time in the midfield in 2009, even earning a starting nod as the Red-and-White’s left midfielder against New England on July 19th.

He believes his versatility will help him as he moves forward in 2010.

“If they need me to be a strong target player and hold the ball, I think I have the capabilities of doing that,” he said. “If they need me to stretch the field, I have the pace to do that, and if they need me to go at somebody one-on-one, I can do that as well. I have a lot of weapons and it’s just up to me to utilize them to the best of my ability.”

Chivas USA will continue to look for its first goal of the season when the team takes on New York this Saturday at The Home Depot Center. It’s a game that Chijindu believes is well within reach for the Red-and-White.

“We are capable of getting the result,” he said. “We’re 0-2, but I think both those games could have ended differently. Just as quick as we’re 0-2, we could have been 2-0. I think we’ll be fine.”