As Chivas USA continue their 2010 preseason preparations, a few of the club's older players have stepped up to help lead the group of newcomers and trialists. One of those older players is Marcelo Saragosa, who has become a leader in the center of the Red-and-White midfield over the course of the last few weeks.
Saragosa joined Chivas USA last July after a trade with FC Dallas, making eight appearances for the Red-and-White last year. Now, with a gaping hole left in the midfield by the departure of Paulo Nagamura to Mexican Primera Division side Tigres UANL and the retirement of Jesse Marsch, Saragosa looks to be next in line to lead Chivas USA's midfield.
"We're very lucky to have guys like Marcelo," said Chivas USA head coach Martín Vásquez. "We're going to support him when it comes to being the experienced player. I think [players like him] understand their responsibility, but they have to be the first ones to lead by example."
Getting over the losses of Nagamura and Marsch won't be easy. Chivas USA started 29 of 30 games last year with one or the other, or both, in the center midfield position. But if anyone can ease the transition, it's Saragosa, who boasts six years of MLS experience.
"I'm alone in the midfield right now, but it's a great opportunity for me to work hard with Martín and earn my place," said Saragosa. "I'm going to pursue whatever Martín wants me to do with great heart and a lot of passion. Whether attacking or defending, I'll be ready to do what is asked of me."
Returning to join Saragosa in the midfield are Sacha Kljestan, Michael Lahoud and Jesús Padilla, each of whom had a hand in Chivas USA's playoff run last season.
"I've worked a lot with Sacha, and played a few games with Lahoud," said Saragosa. "They're both great players and easy to play with. It's easy for us all to adapt to each other."
Saragosa, who was born in Campo Grande, Brazil, is enjoying the new system at Chivas USA and feels that the team is on a good track.
"Martín has a different mentality than Preki did," said Saragosa. "He has a mentality that's similar to the Brazilian style -- lots of heart, lots of passion, and the whole team working together like a family. It's changed a lot around here."
At the start of 2010, Saragosa is focused on fitting into the midfield and doing his best to lead by example, but he has other objectives for the upcoming season as well. Saragosa won an MLS championship with the LA Galaxy in 2005 and would like to repeat that feat.
"I always have personal goals," he said. "But the big one is to help my team win the championship."