This isn’t Mike Chabala’s first rodeo. In fact, this is the seventh time Chabala has been in preseason camp with the Dynamo. But unlike the previous six times, the veteran left back enters camp not with a starting position in mind, but with the hope of impressing Dominic Kinnear and earning a spot on the club’s 30-man roster.
“It’s great to be back,” Chabala said of his return to Houston. “I have had some of my best moments as a professional here. It feels nice to be home and like everyone else, I’m just working hard to get a spot on the team.”
During his tenure in Houston, Chabala appeared in 47 matches with 36 starts. His best season came in 2010 when he played 25 games and tallied one goal and four assists from his left back position.
In July 2011, Chabala and midfielder Lovel Palmer were traded to the Portland Timbers in exchange for Adam Moffat. Chabala played in 23 games over two seasons for Portland before being traded to D.C. United in August 2012. The California native struggled to find playing time at DC and played in only three regular season - and zero playoff - games for the club last season.
While with the Dynamo, the 28-year-old was known not only for his work ethic on the field, but his work in the community off it. Chabala was a regular visitor to local area children’s hospitals and spearheaded the 2011 Bald is Beautiful campaign. When the opportunity to come in and fight for a roster spot with the Dynamo was presented, Chabala jumped at the chance.
“Dominic [Kinnear] and I spoke on and off during the off-season,” he said. “Obviously, the team has been doing extremely well over the past few years, so it’s a matter of whether or not this is a good fit for both of us. [Dom and I] had some good conversations and I’m just here to make the most of this opportunity.”
Although one might think Chabala has a leg up on his competition because of his familiarity with the club and vice versa, the California native is taking nothing for granted this week.
“There are a lot of great players in camp,” he said. “The standard has definitely been raised. The players are faster, better and younger and I’m just excited to be back here.
“Houston is a great place for soccer and it has a great community. The Dynamo are a great organization. I’m just excited to be here to work hard and hopefully I can earn a spot on the team.”