Chivas USA 2012 Player Postmortem: Rauwshan McKenzie

McKenzie: Surprise of the season? - Otto Greule Jr

The newcomer came in for a back-up place on the team and won a starter, at least for much of the season.

In what turned out to be a dismal season for Chivas USA, a few players managed to surprise. MLS debutants Oswaldo Minda and Miller Bolanos set themselves apart, and so did Rauwshan McKenzie. The center back had bounced around the Kansas City Wizards and Real Salt Lake before trialing with Chivas in the preseason. Having previously played 11 league games in his first four seasons in the league, McKenzie became the breakout player of Chivas' defense in 2012. He totally outshined his fellow newcomer John Valencia, beat out David Junior Lopes in the preseason, and paired relatively well with veterans Heath Pearce and Danny Califf. He was also the team's cheapest defender in the regular rotation ($44,000 in base salary and guaranteed compensation in 2012), making him fantastic value compared to most of his teammates.

Robin Fraser trusted McKenzie early in the season, and played him in 17 of the first 19 league games, as well as all four U.S. Open Cup games. But Fraser benched him for all but three of the final 15 league games, and it seemed rather inexplicable. Was McKenzie flawless in each game? No. There were certainly games where he struggled, but that can't be a surprise given that it was the first year he saw consistent minutes in his professional career. On top of that, I think it is clear he was the most consistent center back of the season. In the games he played, the team went 8-11-5 (all competitions) with a goal differential of -14, while in the rest of the games, the team went 2-8-4 with a goal differential of -20. That's six more goals against in 10 fewer games.

Obviously, given the poor record with or without McKenzie in the lineup, it isn't as though he should be considered for defender of the year honors for 2012. But is it any coincidence that when Fraser began playing Valencia (or Bobby Burling, or Shalrie Joseph) instead of McKenzie, the team dropped off a cliff?

It was interesting for McKenzie to admit he was tired as the season progressed when I interviewed him last month. Perhaps Fraser saw that he wasn't able to play at a high level, or maybe he went overboard with dropping McKenzie. I suppose we won't know that answer, although another season could be illustrative.

Here are McKenzie's 2012 statistics:

Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 20 19 1,732 0 1 5 2 2 0
U.S. Open Cup 4 4 360 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 24 23 2,092 0 1 5 2 2 0

Considering the decent season he had relative to most of his teammates, I think it is great news that his option was picked up and he is presumably coming back to Chivas next season. Given how well he performed in his first season as a starter, the fact that he has the size and strength to be a quality centerback in MLS, and that he has very good man-marking skills, he should be an integral part of the team in 2013. Of course, given the latest rebuilding project and the uncertainty surrounding the club, it isn't certain he will necessarily spend any or all of the season with the team, as the club could try to flip him within the league (by the way, that can be said about nearly all of the players on the roster). Would the team be that foolish? Unless they truly got a superior player, let's hope not. McKenzie was a bright spot on a team that didn't have many in 2012, and I look forward to seeing what he can do for the Goats in 2013.

Grades:

Scoring threat: C
At some point, we all expected McKenzie would break through and get that goal. His size and mobility were surely assets on set pieces. But while he had five shots, only two were on target.

Playmaker (Passing/Creativity): C
McKenzie did well to act as a funnel between the defense and the midfield. His passes were generally on target and he was wise enough to avoid trying to force a pass.

Defense: B+
Signing McKenzie was a coup for the Goats' front office. His physicality and off-the-ball smarts were assets for the team and his contract was very manageable. He led all defenders in plus/minus with a -14; the only defenders who played more minutes (Ante Jazic and James Riley) were -32 and -33 respectively.

- Matthew Hoffman

GM's Evaluation:

Love this guy. I think he was the surprise of the season - very unknown entity who really proved just how good he is. No idea why he was relegated off the starting eleven, but he shouldn't have been. The day he announced his contract option was picked up by the team, I think I shrieked with joy. He's the type of player any team would be great to have - consistently great on the field, and a fan favorite off the field.

- Rachna Kapur

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