Mike Chabala didn’t get time to say goodbye to his former Portland Timbers teammates before he left the West Coast for Washington, D.C., on Thursday. But “his people” took care of his Twitter page (@Chabala6), and after one training session with D.C. United on Friday morning, he’s ready to step in at right back should United coach Ben Olsen decide it’s required.
“It’s been a crazy last 48 hours, but all smiles on this end,” Chabala said. “I’m ready whenever Ben needs me.”
It’s not a bad switch for Chabala, who played only nine games (six starts) this season for the Timbers, who are in the midst of a tumultuous second MLS season. They’re all but out of playoff contention, coach John Spencer was fired, and former D.C. goalkeeper Troy Perkins was also swapped for Montreal’s Donovan Ricketts.
“My friends around the league are like, ‘Congrats,’” Chabala said. “’You didn’t get lucky, but you got to a good team.’ Now it’s up to me to run with it.”
Acquired by Portland in July 2011, Chabala had fallen out of favor (one start in the last nine games), but his move appears to be one both of need for D.C. United and one that was accommodated by the Timbers front office.
“It was probably one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had, being able to play in Jeld-Wen as a professional,” Chabala said. “I think it’s easy to say that Jeld-Wen Field and Seattle are the best two places to play in MLS right now. Just the atmosphere and the synergy that’s going on around the city. It’s a small city, having only the Trail Blazers and the Timbers, there’s a lot of focus on the team, which is a good thing.”
Chabala was frustrated by his situation in Portland but didn’t lob any specific blame for his troubles or the team’s.
“As far as pointing the finger, that’s just not for me to do,” he said. “I think the overall core of the group, there’s a lot of solid, great quality footballers in that locker room. Early this preseason when I was with them, I thought this was going to be a quality, contending championship team. Unfortunately, a few pieces were shifted along the way, which maybe has created a little bit of a domino effect.”
In D.C., Chabala is reunited with Dwayne De Rosario – “he is the most fierce competitor I’ve ever played against,” Chabala said – and Pat Onstad, who he saw as players lead Houston to consecutive MLS Cup titles in 2006 and 2007.
“That’s all I know as far as success in this league and so why wouldn’t I think this could be something special [in D.C.],” he said. “The bottom line is I want to win my own championship. I wasn’t part of the starting 11 to win those games, and that’s what I’m set out to do.”