Chivas USA 2012 Player Postmortem: Jorge Villafaña

Villafana: Played two positions for his club in 2012. - Ned Dishman

Sueño didn't see the field as much in 2012, but he still had some big contributions.

I know I write this about once a month, but it is still a remarkable fact: Jorge Villafana is Chivas USA's longest-tenured player. Actually, I just looked it up, and Villafaña has been with the team more seasons than any player in the club's history. He hasn't approached the record for most appearances for the club, mostly because he's only been a regular starter one season (2011), but he has been able to stick with the club over the years. And he's still just 23 years old.

After a 2011 when he started as a left-sided midfielder and got consistent minutes, he spent nearly all of his time in 2012 as the back-up left back. In some respects, this was a sensible policy, since Ante Jazic is getting old and needed some rest between his club duties and spells with the Canadian Men's National Team this year. Add to that the fact that Sueño was called into the U.S. Men's National Team U23 team for a series of camps beginning in the fall of 2011 and running through the Olympic Qualifying tournament this past spring, where he exclusively played left back, and it seemed like maybe left back was going to be his settled position.

Here's the thing. I think the jury is still out as to his best position. I think he is better at midfield, although he still really needs to develop his shooting abilities and actually get the nerve to shoot more often, since he has a knack for getting the ball in the box all alone with only the keeper to beat. I think he works hard in defense and can have good games from the back, but he needs to develop his positioning from left back.

What he would benefit from, though, would be a commitment to one position, so that he could really work on that single skill set. Who would say that he hasn't improved over the course of his career?

Here are his statistics for the season:

Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 14 9 906 1 1 12 2 1 0
U.S. Open Cup 3 3 270 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 17 12 1,176 1 1 13 2 1 0

Like everybody else, Villafaña did not contribute many goals or assists in 2012, but his contributions were among the most memorable of the year. In one of his few appearances as a midfielder, he beat former teammate Zarek Valentin to send in a beautiful cross to Juan Pablo Angel for the late game winner against the Montreal Impact. And in Chivas' toughest stretch, when they went 600 minutes without scoring, he scored the equalizer against FC Dallas. As I wrote at the time, Villafaña is the heartbeat of Chivas USA. One of my colleagues may not agree that Sueño continually improves, but I think he's got more to show the team in the future, and I fully expect him to be back in 2013. I also think the team is all the better, on and off the field, for having him on it.

Grades:

Scoring Threat: C
The artist formerly known as Jorge Flores did well to equalize against FC Dallas but in his 7th season his development--like his goal tallies--seems to have stalled. Some of this can be explained that he missed the first handful of games due to Olympic qualifying and when he returned his left midfield slot was being occupied by Juan Agudelo.

Because his minutes plunged, so did his shots. Of his nine shots on the year, four were blocked (all in one game, against Vancouver), two were on target and the other three were off-target. That nearly half his shots were blocked and that they all came in one match is perplexing.

Playmaker (Passing/Creativity): B
Perhaps more than any other player on the team, Villafaña likes to take the ball down the left blank and zip in a cross. Sometimes it works (ex. his assist against Montreal) but seldom is that the case. Sueño's cross conversion rate is poor. Failed crosses result in turnovers and thus kill an already impotent offense.

Intriguingly, Villafaña only had one blocked cross on the season. This would seem to suggest that he does well to disguise his crosses but it also implies that his quick release may impair his accuracy. Another possibility is the league has figured Villafaña out and know that when he's racing down the sideline to pack defenders in the box to head away the inevitable missile.

Defense: C+
Villafaña split his time between his natural left midfield position and filling in at left back when Ante Jazic was on international duty or taking the night off. On one hand, you could say Villafaña excelled as the team never lost by more than two goals in league play--it might not sound like high standards but for a team that was routinely being routed by four goals at one point, its a positive.

On the other, Villafaña seemed timid to tackle opponents. He attempted 17 tackles--i.e. successfully taking away the ball from an opponent in possession--only "losing" twice which suggests he would only go for it if it looked like a sure thing. Meanwhile his fouls were low--roughly one per appearance. There's no doubt in my mind that Villafaña played cautiously in an effort to prevent Robin Fraser from further restricting his time in the first team.

- Matthew Hoffman

GM's Evaluation:

I've always been a fan of Jorge Villafaña, and I think that he continues to improve. He's seen himself placed on various parts of the field, and I think he's actually better in the midfield. While generally an outside back in defense, I feel his offensive style is more suited to playing in the midfield, particularly in front of Ante Jazic. His defensive abilities aren't as strong as other outside backs, and I think his size gives him a little knock. However, if he were to strengthen his defensive skills, he'd fit anywhere we really need him. He's versatile, and of course, fits the mold of the face of this team.

- Rachna Kapur

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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