Valentin ready to reunite with Zips at Chivas

No. 4 pick played behind midfielders Zemanski, Gavin at Akron

Zarek Valentin

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The 2011 MLS SuperDraft is in the books, and there are likely few people happier with how it went than Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser.

The Goats' new boss was thrilled following the end of the draft, insisting that the team’s selections will have an immediate impact as he seeks to rebuild for the 2011 season.

The Red-and-White first selected University of Akron standout and Generation Adidas member Zarek Valentin with the fourth overall pick, making the 19-year-old the highest defender taken. A veteran of the US U-20 squad, Valentin will likely challenge for a spot in the Chivas lineup right away.  

“Zarek was our No. 1 choice,” Robin Fraser said after the draft. “We have talked so much about team and building a team with the right characters, and he’s got all that. He’s a great player, a very thoughtful player, great leadership. I think he’s got a really bright future and he’s good part of this building process for us.”

Valentin was thrilled with the selection and feels that Los Angeles is a perfect place for him to begin his professional career.

“It’s been amazing,” Valentin said at the draft. “Chivas is probably the team that I wanted to come to the most. I’ve seen Chivas play in Mexico a couple of times, and a few times in LA as well. I’ve only heard amazing things. I’m very, very excited.”

Valentin will reunite with former University of Akron teammates Blair Gavin and Ben Zemanksi in SoCal, which will likely help to ease his transition into MLS.

WATCH: Valentin highlights

“It will be good to have them help me with everything," he said."I actually played right behind them as a center back [in college] and it was amazing. They’re both class players. They’re very good with their feet and good defensively. They’re such good players and good people.”

Originally slated for just one selection in the draft’s first round, Chivas USA made a last-minute trade with Real Salt Lake to secure the 14th overall pick. The Goats used the trade to pick up Ecuadoran striker Victor Estupinan.

“Victor is a little different than some of the other forwards we’ve seen,” Fraser said. “We feel like he’s got a really good understanding of the game and his movement is that of a true striker. He does a lot of things that make us think he has a bright future ahead of him.”

Estupinan comes to Chivas USA by way of Ecuadoran side L.D.U. Quito, where he led the reserve side in scoring last season. The 22-year-old also appeared in this year’s 2011 MLS Combine.

“I’m really happy,” Estupinan said after being drafted. “I hope to score a bunch of goals and find my place in the team. I am going to fight for this jersey because this team has put their trust in me.”

Chivas USA’s third and final selection in this year’s draft came in the third round, where the team picked Brown University midfielder Jon Okafor with the 40th overall choice. The trio of young players will provide an important spark to a squad that finished the 2010 season in last place in the Western Conference.

“We have a young team,” Valentin said. “They made strides last year in a bunch of different areas, with Justin [Braun] and Blair, and all the guys that came on. Going forward, I think we’ll have a very good squad and we can potentially do a lot better than we did last year.”