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More than charity

Soccer star finds extra motivation heading into exhibition game at COC

Posted: March 1, 2009 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Chivas USA's Jonathan Bornstein defends Chicago Fire's Cuauhtemoc Blanco in this undate photo. For Bornstein, the Hoefflin Foundation's goals hit close to home.

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When Chivas USA takes on the Ventura Fusion of the Premier Development League today at 5 p.m. at College of the Canyons’ Cougar Stadium, some players would have reason to take it easy.

Here’s the list of reasons:

No. 1, It’s a preseason game.

No. 2, The Fusion are of course not on the level of the Major League Soccer Team.

Chivas 24-year-old defenseman and 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year Jonathan Bornstein says he’s not about to take it easy.

And there are a list of reasons for that.

Included in the reasoning is the meaning behind the game.

For the third straight year, the Michael Hoefflin Foundation, which gives support to children and their families facing childhood cancer, has organized the exhibition game.

Bornstein says the game is preparation for the upcoming MLS season and he wants to please the people who pay money to see him play.

But the benefit is also a reminder for him.

Bornstein, a former MLS All-Star and member of the U.S. National Team, remembers when he was growing up in Los Alamitos and a friend named Ritchie Hyatt had a sister with leukemia.

“I felt for them,” Bornstein says. “Maybe that has to do with why I get so involved.”

Prior to last year’s Hoefflin game, Bornstein came to the Santa Clarita Valley to promote the contest and sign autographs.

He has also been a participant in a Hoefflin silent auction event.

Bornstein remembers his friend taking care of his young sister and being proactive during her illness.

Hyatt organized a walk-a-thon to raise funds for his sister.

“I was probably in eighth grade or ninth grade and saw the family going through it,” Bornstein says. “I saw the way (Hyatt) handled himself. He put on the charity event. It was uplifting and inspiring to do something for his sister.”

As the years went on, Bornstein and Hyatt grew apart, though his friend’s charity is a memory that the Hoefflin event rekindles.

So Bornstein takes the event very seriously.

It’s also a chance for him to test a body that was battered by knee injuries and a torn abductor muscle last season.

“I would just say it was a big learning experience,” Bornstein says of the 2008 season.

He played in 21 of Chivas’ 30 games last season, a season in which Chivas lost in the Western Conference semifinals for the third straight season.

The regular season begins March 21 at the Home Depot Center against the Colorado Rapids.

But expect Bornstein’s all before that, as in today.

“The game means a lot to me,” he says. “I’m glad we can participate and I hope we can help save kids’ lives.”

cosborne@the-signal.com

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