Lopes: Played in 2012, but not for Chivas USA - Doug Pensinger
We begin the postmortem with the players who never played for Chivas USA this past season.
Introducing the Chivas USA 2012 player postmortems! It is our second edition of the postseason series, and in the coming weeks we'll be going through each and every Chivas USA player in 2012. We're adding some new additions to this year's coverage, starting with our first player who saw time on the field. But before we get to that point, we'll begin by discussing the three players with Chivas this season who never saw time on the field in a competitive match. Each player had a different story, but they were the guys who didn't see action with the Goats in 2012.
The "veteran" of the trio, Lopes had of course been signed in August 2011. He made eight appearances and played 580 minutes in 2011, and was initially expected to play a part in 2012, especially with the departures of Michael Umana and Andrew Boyens last offseason. He looked rather sloppy at the end of 2011, but considering he was dropped into the deep end late in the year, those performances had to be taken with a grain of salt.
Coming into 2012, Lopes had new competition to work with at center back. John Valencia was signed from Colombia, and Rauwshan McKenzie was signed during training camp. Although it seemed like Valencia, having the best track record in his career, was going to be the favorite to partner with Heath Pearce heading into the season, it still seemed likely that Lopes would have a decent shot of getting a chance to start, or at least be the first back-up. But that isn't how it panned out.
Valencia was hurt just ahead of the season opener, and McKenzie ended up getting the nod to start over Lopes. Although Lopes looked to be in good shape physically, he didn't impress during training camp, and he was the Goats' last choice option at center back. As a result, he didn't see any action in his limited time with Chivas in 2012.
On April 10, Lopes was traded to the LA Galaxy in exchange for midfielder Paolo Cardozo. In the end, he was on the Goats for less than a month in the 2012 season. We'll talk about Cardozo plenty in his upcoming postmortem, but suffice it to say, in my eyes the trade looks like a wash. The Galaxy used Lopes early in the season, and he came up big for Chivas in May when his handball on the goal line and subsequent ejection gave Chivas the win over their rivals. But he fell out of favor as well, to the point that the Galaxy have been using a rookie, Tommy Meyer, at center back while regular starter A.J. DeLaGarza is injured. If I had to guess, I think Lopes won't be returning to the Galaxy next year.
The question is whether it would have been better to keep Lopes. Again, his body of work in MLS remains limited, and while Chivas had major problems with their defense in the final third of the season, it seems unlikely he would have made any substantial improvement.
One of the biggest question marks of the season is how Iraheta would have done had he gotten a chance to play. The 20-year old tore his ACL in Chivas' first scrimmage of the preseason, and spent most of the season rehabbing. He was cleared near the end of the season, but by that point, Chivas were in a free fall and Fraser never seemed comfortable giving him time. Whether that was because Iraheta couldn't hack it or he didn't want to blood a youngster remains unclear.
The Salvadoran was signed in preseason, his first professional contract. His only experience on a big stage prior to this year was as a member of the "New York Cosmos" in Paul Scholes' testimonial match August 6, 2011. He is a midfielder. That's about all we know.
In considering whether or not Iraheta will be moving on this offseason, it is worth noting his salary in 2012 was $33,750, which was the minimum. As a result, he didn't cost much this season. In addition, Iraheta is of course Latino, having lived both in El Salvador and the United States, and could be a key player to fit Jorge Vergara's plans to go with more Latino players. Still, the fact that he never had a chance to show if he belongs in MLS means he might also be cut loose. Either option makes sense, but I'd like to see him have a chance before letting him go.
The third-string goalkeeper never saw time on the field in 2012. To a large extent, that is not necessarily a surprise, as goalkeepers tend to stay in place as long as they are healthy. Although he was in the game day 18 several times in 2012, McLain never had a chance as Dan Kennedy and Tim Melia split the minutes between the posts. The 24-year old was signed in March, after a collegiate career at Cal Poly-SLO. Fortunately for Chivas but unfortunately for McLain, Kennedy played the lion's share of the league games and minutes overall, which was great as he is of course a finalist for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. And Melia played five games between the league and U.S. Open Cup, and played quite well in limited minutes.
It is always important to have three goalkeepers, as there are always a handful of teams that have two keepers unavailable at a time, and have to turn to the third option. Still, it is a best-case scenario when the third-string doesn't need to step in most of the time. Will McLain be back in 2013? That is unclear, of course. Like Iraheta, McLain made the minimum $33,750 in 2012. Maintaining stability, especially among the niche position of goalkeeper, can be useful, but it also can be a precarious position for a player. As a result, it is unclear if McLain will be back, but he did his job. He just didn't get an opportunity to see the field in 2012.
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