CARSON, Calif. – When he was first selected by Chivas USA with the 37th overall pick in the 2006 MLS Superdraft, there were few who predicted the professional success that Jonathan Bornstein would find.
He was just a scrawny kid from UCLA who hadn’t even been invited to the league’s combine that year. There was no way he was going to turn out to be anything special, right?
In the five seasons since his arrival at The Home Depot Center, Bornstein has been exactly that: special.
He won the 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year award. He was named to three MLS All-Star teams (2007, 2008, 2009). He amassed 35 caps for the US team and played in the 2010 World Cup.
More than all that, though, he became the face of Chivas USA. So much so, in fact, that his image now adorns the side of The Home Depot Center itself.
But on Saturday, his tenure with the club will come to an end as he plays his final match with the Red-and-White before joining Mexican Primera División side Tigres UANL.
“There’s a little bit of a mixed feeling there,” Bornstein told MLSsoccer.com. “Chivas has been a big part of the last five years of my life. They gave me my chance as a professional player from the beginning. I’m very thankful for that and I’m sad to leave. But I’m also really excited for what lies ahead and the adventure that is in front of me.”
Bornstein’s final game will come against the Chicago Fire this Saturday. Coincidentally, the game will mark the final one of MLS veteran and US national team legend Brian McBride’s professional career.
“It’s even more special to know that my last Chivas game is going to be the final game of career,” Bornstein said. “I was one of those players growing up who watched him play in the World Cup and play overseas and also in MLS. Just to be able to play against him in the last couple of years has been a pleasure.”
Bornstein comes from humble beginnings. After a college career that included two years at Cal Poly Pomona and two years at UCLA, he wasn’t sure he was going to be drafted at all. And even it if he were, he definitely didn’t imagine that he’d go on to find the success that he has with Chivas USA.
“To be honest, I just wanted to get picked up by anybody,” said Bornstein. “When I finally got to Chivas, my expectations weren’t very high. I was just excited. I didn’t think any of the stuff that has happened would be in my future.
“I mean, I dreamt big—I wanted to play in a World Cup ever since I was a little kid—but I definitely didn’t think I’d have my face on the side of The Home Depot Center or even that I’d be on TV or in commercials or whatever.”
In five seasons with Chivas USA, Bornstein has accumulated an impressive collection of stats. He is the club’s all-time appearance leader with 130. He has played 11,285 minutes, scored nine goals, and notched 10 assists. His first goal, scored against FC Dallas in 2006, remains his fondest memory of his time in Carson.
“That one’s forever engrained in my head,” he said. “I remember—and I don’t know why—but I remember that I jumped into Sacha Kljestan’s arms. It was awesome.”
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Bornstein’s move to Tigres was announced in July after a strong showing at the 2010 World Cup that saw him play in both the US’ final group-stage game against Algeria and the quarterfinal match against Ghana. He’ll begin play with the Monterrey-based club in January.
“The biggest challenge at the beginning will be getting used to the language and learning the culture and every day routine of the team,” he said of his move south. “The stuff I take for granted here that I’ve gone through every day for five years. Now it will be a new routine and system. I just have to fit in the best that I can.”
Helping to aid the transition will be five years worth of experience at Chivas USA under some of MLS’ most seasoned veterans.
“I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to be a leader over the years,” Bornstein said. “Coming in, I watched some of the older guys like Jesse Marsch, Claudio Suarez, and Ante Razov. Just what they brought to the table and how professional they were day in and day out. I’ll carry that with me. Hopefully it can continue to bring me to new heights.”
While Bornstein’s future in Mexico may be bright, he will be sorely missed by the Red-and-White faithful. His MLS career has been a hugely successful one, not only for him but for Chivas, and his departure is certainly bittersweet.
“The fans are the reason why I’ve been able to do what I’ve been able to do for the last five years,” he said. “I hope they continue to be a fan of mine and watch Tigres. And I’ll continue to be a fan of Chivas and show my support any way that I can.”