Chivas USA's Trujillo, Valentin united in battle

Could compete for time or share right flank

The résumés of Zarek Valentin and Mariano Trujillo are full of differences.

Valentin, Chivas USA’s first pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, is a US youth international and a product of the soccer factory known as the University of Akron. Trujillo is an experienced Mexican league veteran who captained Chivas USA for much of last season.

On the field, the 33-year-old Trujillo prefers to launch into the attack from his right back position, while Valentin, 19, provides a steady defensive presence from that same spot.

And while all signs point to a fierce battle between the pair as they seek a starting role in head coach Robin Fraser’s lineup, the two believe their versatility on the field could see them complementing each other rather than competing.

During his first week with the club, Valentin has studied the play of the former Mexican international. A stable defender on Caleb Porter’s fast-paced Akron team, he has worked with a number of players who share Trujillo’s quick-touch style of play. The soft spoken Trujillo may not be the most vocal teacher, but by watching him work, Valentin has gotten a great sense for how they could work together.

“Mariano’s touch and the way that he sees the game are incredible, and he’s even helped me out off the field as well,” Valentin told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “He leads by example and it’s good to have him as a teacher on the field.

“I feel that we balance each other out, he’s very skilled going forward and I know as a right back, I need to pick and choose my chances [going forward]. I think that we could form a good partnership.”

Valentin, who can play both center back and right back, is likely to see most of his time in the latter position. Cut from a similar cloth as Valentin, Trujillo has displayed versatility, lining up at both right back and right wing since joining Chivas USA in 2009. This gives Fraser the option of having both men patrol the right side of the field in tandem, an idea Trujillo welcomes.

“It is a decision that Robin should make, but I like to play as a midfielder and go forward, so if that is a possibility, then I would love it,” said Trujillo. “That being said, I just want to be playing in the starting lineup and I want to win. After that, all that matters is [that] you just play well … it doesn’t matter if it’s on the wing or as a right back.”

But as is often the case, just a belief that a pair may work well together is not a guarantee of playing time. They each face a great deal of competition, not just from each other, but also from a host of players that includes Sal Zizzo and Ante Jazic.

Whether they end up splitting time at right back or teaming up on the right flank, the camaraderie between the rookie Valentin and the veteran Trujillo shows just how quickly the club has begun to come together under Fraser.

With Fraser and interim general manager José Domene at the helm, the club has stressed that 2011 will be a renaissance of sorts for the Rojiblancos. Cohesion and bonding – two things the team has struggled with, particularly over the last couple of years – have been vital principles as the club continues training with an eye towards their season opener against Sporting Kansas City on March 19.

Training in the relative calm of Paso Robles in California’s Central Coast has forced the new members of the team to become quickly acquainted from the offset of the regular season. Trujillo sees the difference already and commends the club’s new additions for helping to create a positive atmosphere.

“Last year, we didn’t have the experience [on the field] that we do right now with Jimmy [Conrad], Jazic and Alejandro [Moreno],” said Trujillo. “They’ve been playing in the league a long time and they all know how to lead a team. I think we’re a step ahead from where we were last season.”

Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSSoccer.com. He can be reached at adam.m.serrano@gmail.com. On Twitter: @adamserrano