Robin Fraser, who hasn't been shy about bringing players in on trial since Chivas USA's camp opened in January, is looking at a promising English forward this week as he continues to look to strengthen his roster ahead of the next week's close to the transfer window.
Jason Banton, 18, arrived from Liverpool's youth academy for a weeklong stint with the Goats, who could use more talent at the attacking end. He also can play on the left side of midfield and has impressed the Chivas coach.
"Jason's a talented young kid," Fraser said Wednesday. "He's got good ability to run at people [with an] aggressive attacking mindset [and is] someone who fits the mold of a good attacking player in this league."
Banton, who joined Liverpool's academy in January after playing for Arsenal's and Blackburn's youth teams, was discovered by Chivas USA general manager Jose Domene. Fraser saw tape of him for the first time "a couple of weeks ago."
Chivas has five players Fraser has brought in, at least nominally, on trial, three with MLS experience (midfielder Francisco Mendoza, in his second stint with the Goats, and New Zealanders Simon Elliott and Andy Boyens), plus Argentine winger Marcos Mondaini and Ghanaian defender Seth Owusu. Many more have come in for a trial, then been released.
Where does Fraser find these players?
"I can't give away all my secrets," he says.
How about one or two?
"Well, you're in contact with agents all the time, and we have a scouting mechanism by which we're looking at players and different leagues around the world, and every now and then you find a player you like, and you look into it, and it turns out to be a good fit," he said. "And then other times you have agents who know the types of players you're looking for through longstanding personal relationships, and you get a call once in a while when they come up with a player they think you might like."
Fraser, a longtime student of the game, monitored players overseas during his 3½ years on Jason Kreis' staff at Real Salt Lake, which has been aggressive -- and very successful -- in bringing in young foreign players capable of making big impacts in MLS. Among the group: Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio, MLS's Newcomer of the Year in 2010, and Colombian defender Jamison Olave, the league Defender of the Year last season.
"Through that role, you start to develop a database of players you find interesting," Fraser said. "Some don't work out from time to time, but you go back and revisit the list, and maybe their situation is different a year or two later. The important thing is that you just don't look at a player and, if you don't get him, close the door. You have to follow up on players, because if a player was good two years ago at 20, it's likely he's still good two years [later] at 22."
MLS's financial restraints can make the task difficult -- "There's a ton of players we love, but how many can we afford," Fraser said -- and the teams that "do a good job in identifying [players] and bring them in to the league under our salary-cap format, those are the ones that do well." Such as Real Salt Lake.
So, what does Fraser look for when he has a week to assess a player such as Banton?
"In the very broadest sense, it's technical ability, tactical decision-making ability and athleticism," he said. "Those are three things you have to try to assess pretty quickly. If a player has all of those and they're really good in all those areas, then it's a no-brainer probably. But it's probably rare that you find the perfect fit.
"I think you have certain parameters that you're looking at: whether the player fits into this, is he good because of this, can he make good decisions, and if so, where does he fit on the team based on what we have and what we perceive our needs to be. There are a lot of things that go into it. Salary-cap room, players' [contract] demands. There's a lot that goes into bringing in players in this country, for sure."
RESERVE DEBUT DELAYED: Chivas' scheduled MLS Reserve League opener Sunday against Seattle was postponed, no new date yet, after the Sounders were unable to find enough flights to get their players to L.A.
Some of the Reserve League matches are scheduled to follow first-team games, generally the following day, but five on the Goats' 10-game schedule are stand-alones in which they or the opponent must travel. Two more stand-alones are against the Galaxy. Fraser said Chivas had sought to "move the game around, per [Seattle's] request."
The Goats instead will play the L.A. Blues, preparing for their debut in the third-tier USL Pro league, in an 11 a.m. game Sunday at Home Depot Center. Their first Reserve League clash is slated for the following Sunday at Vancouver.
WORTH NOTING: Rookie defender Zarek Valentin should be back from Guatemala in time for Chivas' game Saturday against Columbus at HDC. Valentin and the U.S. under-20 national team was shockingly eliminated by the host nation in a quarterfinal Wednesday night, ending the Americans' hopes for an eighth straight appearance in the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Whether he will play against the Crew might not be determined until Saturday. ... Chivas Academy's Diego Chacon is a backup goalkeeper for Guatemala's U-20s. ... Defender Jimmy Conrad said he likely would miss a few more games before returning from a mild concussion sustained in the Goats' May 26 loss to Colorado. He didn't travel for last week's U.S. Open Cup qualifying loss at Portland and MLS draw at Toronto. ... The Goats received a first-round supplemental-draft selection from FC Dallas in a trade for the rights to Cuban goalkeeper Maykel Galindo, who was signed by the Hoops after spending most of the preseason in the team's camp.