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Chivas USA's Dan Kennedy ready to take his shot

SOCCER

The goalkeeper was sidelined by a knee injury sustained in the preseason last season and is looking forward to another chance to vie for the starting position.

February 05, 2010|By Grahame L. Jones

Amid all the enthusiasm of a new soccer season -- even if it is still seven weeks away -- no one is raring to get started more than goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

So far, the Chivas USA player's Major League Soccer career has not gone exactly as planned, but 2010 offers a new beginning after the washout of 2009.

One year ago, Kennedy was set to vie with Zach Thornton for the starting spot in the nets. Then came a March 7 preseason scrimmage against the Chicago Fire, and the former UC Santa Barbara 'keeper's season came to a painful and abrupt halt before it had begun.

He injured his right knee during the game and was sidelined for several weeks. An attempted comeback failed, and he underwent surgery on June 4 to reconstruct the posterior cruciate ligament.

What followed was seven months of tedious and frustrating rehabilitation, all the while watching as Thornton enjoyed a banner season by winning MLS goalkeeper of the year honors and leading Chivas into the playoffs.

"I got hurt right before the season, so it really opened the door for Zach," Kennedy said this week. "You saw the year that he had. Now, it's just about me coming back and contributing to the team and proving where my level is at.

"It's good to be back, absolutely. This is everything I've worked for for the last 10 months."

Thornton and Kennedy are two of four goalkeepers Chivas USA has in camp. The other two are Lance Parker and Jon Conway, the latter having been acquired last year when Kennedy went on the disabled list.

While Thornton, 36, holds the No. 1 spot based on his 13 seasons of MLS experience and his exceptional 2009 performance, the other three will be given every opportunity to challenge for the starting spot, especially Kennedy, who is 27.

"We're going to give him the opportunity to show what he showed before he got hurt," said Chivas USA Coach Martin Vasquez. "We owe that to him because when it [the injury] happened he was doing very well.

"He's been working every day. When somebody is so determined, you've got to give him a fair chance."

Originally drafted by Chivas USA in 2005 after a stellar four years at UCSB, Kennedy chose instead to play first for the Islanders in Puerto Rico and then for Municipal Iquique in Chile rather than try his luck in MLS.

In 2008, however, he returned to Southern California -- his family is from Yorba Linda -- and he played in nine games that season, starting eight, and staked a claim to the position.

The four goalkeepers are working under a new coach this season, with Uruguayan goalkeeper coach Leo Percovich having left for Toronto FC and having been replaced by Argentine Daniel Gonzalez.

"Of course we'll miss Leo, but he's moved on in a good career move for him," Kennedy said. "Daniel's stepped in and, I'll tell you what, he's been phenomenal for this first 10 days or so. We've all really adjusted well to him. His ideas are what we're used to as goalkeepers. He's not coming in out of left field.

"He's got a great way about him and he really breeds a lot of confidence in his training, so hopefully you'll see all the 'keepers come out and do well."

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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