Former college teammates renew partnership
At the end of the 2009 season, the center of the Chivas USA
midfield was in transition. The retirements of Jesse Marsch and Sasha Victorine,
and the departure of Paulo Nagamura to the Mexican league, left a gaping hole
in the middle of the field for the Red-and-White.
But last Saturday, a pair of 21-year-old rookies staked
their claim to the vacant central midfield positions, and did so with vigor. Ben
Zemanski and Blair Gavin, who were drafted 10th and 47th respectively by Chivas
USA, earned their first start as a pair against San Jose last weekend.
“Ben and Blair were awesome tonight,” said captain Sacha
Kljestan after the game against San Jose. “They played great.”
The most noticeable aspect of the pair’s performance against
the Earthquakes was the ease with which they were able to play alongside one
another. The two moved and passed seamlessly, a result of a partnership that
reaches back three years.
Zemanski and Gavin were teammates at the University of Akron
from 2007-2009, serving as co-captains for the 2009
season. The pair enjoyed immense success at Akron, leading the team to a 23-1-1
record and a spot in the NCAA final last year.
“I was convinced that they can work together when I saw them
play in the semifinal and the final of the NCAA Final Four,” said head coach
Martín Vásquez. “They’ve been playing together at Akron for three years.
There’s a good chemistry there. We gave them the opportunity, we showed
confidence, and they responded.”
Gavin, who started his fourth game in a row, admitted he was
happy to have Zemanski in the lineup with him.
“Ben and I have played together for three years now,” said
Gavin. “We help each other out when we’re in bad situations and we know each
other well. We always pick up the workload for each other. It’s nice.”
For debutant Zemanski, Saturday’s start brought on some nerves
as he walked out onto the field, but he was calmed by the presence of his former
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “All the lights, the fans,
the music. But once the game started, I just tried to focus on doing my job.
It’s a lot easier when Blair is out there.”