Owusu, Estupiñán set to fill gaps for Chivas USA
CARSON, Calif. – International call-ups have wrecked havoc on the back line and up front for Chivas USA, but have no fear.
Head coach Robin Fraser expects to turn to rectify this problem by simply turning to Ghanaian “Man-Mountain” Seth Owusu and the brash young Ecuadorian forward Victor Estupinan, who promised 30 goals in his debut year in MLS.
The two are perhaps the most interesting pickups by Fraser during the offseason and look to play a larger role with the Rojiblancos against the visiting Colorado Rapids on Saturday night, with players like Zarek Valentin and Alejandro Moreno away on international duty. There are three absences at central defense, and Fraser believes that Owusu has progressed enough to start alongside captain Jimmy Conrad against the Rapids front line.
“[Owusu] is progressing well and getting accustomed to the demands and what it is we’re looking for and what the league will require,” Fraser told MLSsoccer.com.
Owusu and Conrad spent the last 30 minutes of training separate from the group Thursday practicing their crossing as they prepare for Saturday’s match. During their private session, Fraser joined the pair as they practiced long ball passes to see how well that they could sync up with one another.
Interestingly enough, however, it was midfielder Ben Zemanski who played alongside Conrad while Owusu was with the second unit during the club’s intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday.
“Coach Fraser wanted to know the telepathy between me and Conrad, and I feel very comfortable with him,” Owusu told MLSsoccer.com. “I still need to work on some things, but Saturday is a good platform for me and it is very important for my career.”
Center back is not the only part the field where Fraser is shorthanded. Moreno has been called up for Venezuela, leaving a hole up top for the Goats.
With Moreno off, Fraser has a number of options, including Estupiñán and fellow youngster Tristan Bowen, another offseason acquisition. One of the two is likely to partner with Justin Braun up top.
Estupiñán was a second-half substitute in the match against Sporting Kansas City and is doing his best to fight for an expanded role on the team. He scored three goals in a scrimmage against local college side Loyola Marymount on Wednesday.
“He could play a role, he’s a very good finisher and if he has half a chance then he usually does well with it,” said Fraser. “The thing for him is realizing that in this league, you don’t get half chances easily, it takes a lot of physical work and that will be part of his adjustment to this league discovering how he’s going to find time and space to finish.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano