Chivas USA's backline rebuild turned serious Tuesday when the club sent allocation money to FC Dallas for veteran outside defender Heath Pearce.
The U.S. national-teamer -- he was on the preliminary roster but not the final roster for last year's World Cup in South Africa -- was among Major League Soccer's elite right backs last season before a hamstring injury knocked him out for FC Dallas' run to the MLS Cup final. He's played left back for the national team.
Pearce's arrival dramatically improves the Goats' depth along the backline -- and might signal that Chivas USA's coaching staff isn't certain top draft choice Zarek Valentin will be ready to start at right back early in the coming season.
Valentin, a center back at the University of Akron, has been battling incumbent Mariano Trujillo for the starting job on the right, but Pearce is a definite step up at the position. Canadian veteran Ante Jazic is the returning starter at left back, and winger Jorge Flores (Anaheim/Anaheim HS) has been his backup.
Chivas also has brought in central defenders Jimmy Conrad (via the re-entry draft) from Sporting Kansas City and New Zealand national-teamer Andrew Boyens (a free-agent signing) from the New York Red Bulls.
Starting defenders Jonathan Bornstein (gone to Mexico) and Dario Delgado (released) and backup Yamith Cuesta (released) have departed since last season ended.
Pearce, 26, who is from Modesto in the Central Valley, joined FC Dallas in 2009 following four seasons in Europe, with Denmark's FC Nordsjælland and Germany's Hansa Rostock. He's made 33 international appearances.
Pearce's relationship with Schellas Hyndman suffered when he wasn't used in the MLS Cup title-game loss to Colorado in November, and FC Dallas' coach offered stinging criticism as the Hoops' preseason preparations intensified about two weeks ago.
“I think Heath’s got a lot of things he needs to get done this season,” Hyndman told ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth's 3rd Degree blog. “He’s one of our more highly recognized players, and we went through the whole playoffs without him. How much better would we have been if we had been there? He picked up his silly fifth yellow in the last minute of a game. And then when he wasn't with the team, he did some extra sprints to pull his hamstring. And then he felt like he was ready to play in the championship game, which he wasn’t.
“Obviously, if he didn’t go into national camp [in January], he wasn’t ready for that. I think he’s got some things he needs to get done for us this year.”
Hyndman on Tuesday told 3rd Degree: “[The trade] was really [about] flexibility with roster and roster spots. These are the tough things that we do. Sometimes they don’t like it, but, at the same time, we try to make the team a better team.”
We'll hear later today from Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser.