Chivas USA 2012 Player Postmortem: Bobby Burling

Burling: Had a rough time in 2012 - Brandon Wade

Burling waited, and waited, and waited to be signed. Then he played in 3 games in 2012.

Ah, Bobby Burling. You hung out for months, and just as Chivas USA took a total nosedive for the season, you were signed to the team. You had three games this season, and although the Goats tied two of the three matches, you were part of the defense that conceded a total of nine goals in those three matches.

If you forgot what happened with Burling's year, here's the recap. He played for the San Jose Earthquakes the past few years, and in the offseason, was selected by the Montreal Impact in the Expansion Draft. Burling was not under contract, however, and so the Impact only held his rights. It was apparent quickly that Montreal didn't want to sign Burling, and only selected him as a trade chip a la Brian Ching. But the market for Burling, a six-year MLS veteran, wasn't good, and so Montreal held his rights until early July, when Chivas traded for them (in exchange for a 2013 International player roster spot - something that the new Chivas regime will probably rue losing). Chivas also waived defender Scott Gordon to clear space (and presumably money) for Burling.

But they didn't actually sign him to a contract until August 17, a full six weeks after the trade for his rights. Why wait so long to sign him? Were they actually so cheap that they just didn't want to pay him for six weeks? I have no idea what the motivation was, but it was bizarre, to say the least. If the club dragged their feet at signing him ($48,000 base salary, $51,333.33 guaranteed compensation), then why sign him at all? He only ended up playing three of 13 games he was available for in 2012.

I suppose there's a good chance that my perceptions of Burling's play are colored by the context of what was happening with the club overall, as again, the Goats drew two of three of the games he played in, but I wasn't particularly impressed with him in limited minutes. He was a veteran of the league, and had previously played with Chivas from 2007-09, and was theoretically at his peak at 28 years old. He is big, at 6'5", and had been training with Chivas for months. But was he worth the pick-up? Was he worth playing over, say, Rauwshan McKenzie, who played well early in the season but was inexplicably benched? I don't think he was.

And not to dump on him further, but Burling left the Earthquakes, who in 2011 finished just ahead of Chivas in the Western Conference standings. The center back who replaced him, Victor Bernardez, was the only main defensive addition to the Quakes' 2012 squad, and he helped transform the team and lead them to the Supporters Shield in 2012. Would they have gone that far with Burling as the starting center back? It seems pretty unlikely.

I think Burling works hard and still could find a situation in MLS to work for him. I don't really expect him to return to Chivas in 2013, nor do I think it will be a massive loss. He was just one of those players who had a bizarre year and didn't really set himself apart in his minutes on the field.

Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 3 3 270 0 0 0 0 1 0
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 3 3 270 0 0 0 0 1 0

Grades:

Scoring Threat: C

Burling has a single MLS goal in his career. This shouldn't be surprising, Burling is a centerback and centerbacks aren't (or at best--shouldn't be) counted on for scoring. But players like Burling can contribute on set pieces and Chivas certainly had it's share when Burling was in the lineup--a combined 22 corner kicks and opponents committed an average of 14 fouls.

Playmaker (Passing/Creativity): D

Using Opta chalkboards, Burling ranks last among all Chivas centerbacks in average events. That's not necessarily a bad thing--centerbacks aren't your best ball handlers--but Burling has a particularly tough time keeping the ball and making successful passes.

Defensive: D

Opponents in the three games Burling played averaged 3 goals a game, essentially scoring a goal in the time it takes for your pizza to arrive. Meanwhile teams completed a median of 81% of their passes and put an average of 6.5 shots on frame.

The question then becomes: how do you separate Burling's performance to judge how much blame Burling deserves?

Anecdotally, the biggest memory I have for Burling is his yellow card tackle on Fabian Castillo against FC Dallas. Already down a goal, Castillo was on a breakaway. Burling, clearly beaten, takes Castillo down with an NFL tackle that could very well have been not only a red card but could have injured Castillo. That's about the only thing that stands out for me.

- Matthew Hoffman

GM's Evaluation:

I don't have many positive things to say about Burling. I felt that he was signed on a whim to help fill some holes, and could provide some veteran leadership to the team. But I don't think that's what this team needed. They needed someone who could be solid in the back and Burling didn't help there at all. He was shaky, and not the type of center back we needed to see. Pair that with his age, I don't see him staying on next season.

- Rachna Kapur

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