One of the biggest problems Chivas USA had this season was scoring goals. They were ranked 13 out of 18 for most goals scored, and every team under them also missed the playoffs. Furthermore, the top goal scorer on the team was midfielder Nick LaBrocca (tied with Justin Braun), with midseason acquisition Juan Pablo Angel trailing in third. It is important to note that 3 of Justin Braun’s goals were scored in the away game to the New York Red Bulls at the beginning of the season, and that Juan Pablo Angel only joined the team in August. With Braun gone to Montreal, there is obviously a void up top that needs to be filled. It is apparent that Angel, Alejandro Moreno, and Marcos Mondaini are the top picks to start as of now. However, Moreno missed stretches of last season due to national team duty, and Mondaini looks to be out of favor with the coaching staff. Where does that leave the forward options?
Victor Estupinan and Chris Cortez. Neither played significant minutes this past season, even though Estupinan promised a 30-goal season with the team. Towards the end of the season, Estupinan came off the bench a few times and seemed to be the player the coaches looked to for speed and goals in the later stages of matches, which is what the team was lacking throughout 2011. However, he only managed to tally 1 goal. Can Victor Estupinan continue to be that player in the 2012 season? This is a question that will probably be answered based on who is drafted by the team, and once preseason begins. Should the team draft a highly rated forward pick, Estupinan’s role off the bench could be threatened. Something else to keep in mind is the current rumor swirling about Estupinan returning to Ecuador. While the team has not released any news about this, press from Ecuador has stated that he will be returning to his native country. There is also Chris Cortez; however, as the season wore on, he saw his stock drop greatly and became almost irrelevant to the scheme.
Personally, I’d like to see a forward selected in the first round. Depth is necessary in defense; however, the void up top was never addressed last season, and continues to be a problem for this team. The best forward options will go in the early picks of the draft, so it is pertinent that the team addresses the problem.
Here are some of the options the team could select for their first round pick:
Darren Mattocks (Akron) – While it is highly doubtful Mattocks will be available for selection, as he will most likely go 1 or 2 in the draft, he could be a huge asset for Chivas USA. An extremely creative forward, one of his biggest assets is his speed, which the team is currently lacking. With 39 goals in 47 games, he could be the goal scorer this team really needs. With a Generation Adidas contract already signed, his contract would not go against the salary cap, which is always a plus with the frugal Chivas USA front office.
Chandler Hoffman (UCLA) – If anyone reading this follows me on twitter, you’ll know that Chandler Hoffman is my favorite collegiate player this season and I would LOVE for him to be selected by Chivas USA. Not only is he my favorite, I think he would be a great addition to this team and could have an immediate impact. With 18 goals and 6 assists this season for UCLA (24 games), it is apparent that he has great finishing skills. One thing to note about Hoffman is his nose for the goal in all ways, not just in scoring. Prior to this season, he spent last summer playing in the PDL for the Orange County Blue Stars where he tallied 13 goals and 10 assists. His assist count is what helps to make him an all around forward. For further proof of this, just watch highlights of his assists in both UCLA goals in this year’s College Cup Semifinal. I think he’s the perfect all around player, and will fit into the Chivas set up extremely well. Another tidbit? He scored against the Goats in their 2011 preseason loss to UCLA.
Billy Schuler (UNC) – With 16 goals this season, and 8 of them game winners, Billy Schuler has proven to be one of the top forwards in college soccer this season. His speed and ability to come up in clutch situations can be assets to any team. He may not be the most complete forward in the crop, but he is one of the best. One factor going against him is the fact that he was not a consistent starter for UNC throughout the season, most likely due to a shoulder injury that kept him out of play all of last season. However, considering Chivas USA need to focus on depth up top first and foremost, this should not be a major problem when considering him.
Ethan Finlay (Creighton) – With Ethan Finlay, we have yet again another skilled forward who makes great runs into the box to finish his chances. Having scored 14 goals this season, Finlay is a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy (along with the aforementioned Billy Schuler and Andrew Wenger), and has been one of the top forward prospects in college soccer for some time.
Other forward options that could be selected with later picks:
Casey Townsend (Maryland), Colin Rolfe (Louisville), Brian Ownby (UVA)
My pick: If it were not obvious already, Chandler Hoffman would be my first choice here. I think he’s the best all around forward of the three highlighted, and would be the best bargain as he is a Generation Adidas player (Darren Mattocks is also a GA player however I do not foresee him being available at the fifth pick).