On Saturday against FC Dallas, the Houston Dynamo got a goal from an unlikely source: Mike Chabala. It was the defender’s first career goal, and it wound up being vital as the match finished 1-1.
“I am just really excited to contribute,” Chabala told MLSsoccer.com this week. “I have a big responsibility this year and I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity that I get.”
The fact that he scored his first professional goal is significant, but it’s not the most notable aspect of this story. The fact that he scored it with his right foot is much more important—and amusing—to his teammates.
“That’s what everyone was joking about, scoring with my right,” Chabala said. “I have worked with both my feet since I was a kid. If I get an opportunity to strike with my right, I’ll take it. But obviously I am more comfortable with left.”
Coach Dominic Kinnear though quickly disavowed the notion that the young defender is not ambidextrous.
“Everyone wants to give him grief on the finish, but he’s good with both feet,” Kinnear noted. “He can probably play left or right back, but ultimately a great goal.”
For Kinnear, the quickness of the counterattack that led to the goal, and specifically the run Chabala—nicknamed Chewie—made from a deep defensive position, impressed him as much as the finish.
“I think the overall buildup play for us from a giveaway and taking advantage of it deep in our own half was a great goal,” Kinnear said. “The pace that we had behind us when the ball turned over, [Dominic Oduro’s] layoff was good, but Chewie’s run off the ball was fantastic.”
Last year, Chabala wrestled the starting left back position away from longtime regular Wade Barrett, who retired and took a position on the coaching staff prior to the start of this season.
“Wade’s had an incredible career and he’s been my mentor,” Chabala said. “I’ve been watching him the past four years since I have been here. I’ve been learning from him and the coaches and I have been trying to follow in his footsteps.”
Chabala’s teammates already see he is moving in the right direction.
“I think he’s done well,” forward Brian Ching said. “With Wade retiring, it’s a big opportunity to solidify that spot and I think he did that last year. He played well. It’s a good start to the season for him.”