Competition fierce, but Zemanski is pushing for time

The versatile midfielder continues fighting for a spot in the starting line-up

Ben Zemanski D.C. United

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CARSON, Calif. – Once a mainstay in central midfield earlier this season, Chivas USA’s Ben Zemanski has become one of the crowd in a part of the field where competition for minutes is fierce.

That has not minimized his importance to Los Rojiblancos, however. Zemanski was a key part of the club prior to the Shalrie Joseph trade, and is proving to be just as significant now, despite the fact that there are now fewer spots for more players in the middle of the park.

“Good teams have good competition for spots and everyone’s pushing each other for performances,” Zemanski told MLSsoccer.com recently. “We’re trying to build that here. I’m just trying to help the team win, trying to help in this run of games.”

Zemanski proved his worth in the last two games. In Columbus on Sept. 19, the 24-year-old started in central midfield – his second 90-minute effort in three matches – with Joseph ruled out for yellow-card accumulation. Then, on Sunday, Zemanski filled in at right back for James Riley, who was out with a red card from the Columbus match.

And while playing on the right side was unexpected and perhaps a bit forced, his assured play spoke to his attitude and willingness to help the team.

“He settled in over time,” Chivas assistant coach Greg Vanney said. “In the grand scheme of things, I think he did a good job of defending and keeping his line. A couple of little things here and there, but you’d expect that from a guy who’s never played that position. He filled in and did perfectly fine.”

Sunday’s match was the first time Zemanski had pieced together consecutive 90-minute matches since late July, days before Joseph arrived. Zemanski played every regular-season minute in June and July, but has sat in three of the nine matches since, with only a six-minute cameo from one game.

Still, the Akron alum has persevered and been rewarded for his efforts.

“Ben is a hard-working kid and he gets that the key to success is continuing to work hard,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser told MLSsoccer.com. “Ben is an important player for this team whether he’s playing every day or not.”

And although his personal goal is certainly to start, Zemanski’s main focus is seeing to the team’s success after a season that can only be described as rough.

“Right now, we have a string of losses in a row and we’re trying to figure out what to put out there to get a win,” he said. “I feel comfortable anywhere they put me. I’m just working on a weekly basis and trying to do everything I can to help the team win.”

Luis Bueno covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at buenodad@gmail.com.