Enthusiasm remains high surrounding Chivas USA double trade yesterday, swapping Heath Pearce for Juan Agudelo and Michael Lahoud for Danny Califf. We've already covered the salary comparisons in the deal and the position considerations in both moves (check those out if you missed them). I want to turn to another dynamic in the player moves: the intangibles. Both on-field and off-field, the four players bring something to their teams and take something away. Let's examine the good and bad intangibles of each player and see how they stack up.
The Good: He is in the top class of MLS defenders (he was an All Star in 2011) and a fringe U.S. international (he participated in the latest January camp and participated in the 'B' international matches). He is in the peak of his career, and is by all accounts a dedicated professional. He has shown signs of mentoring young teammates, in particular former teammate Zarek Valentin in 2011. He was willing to learn a brand new position last season after Jimmy Conrad retired from injuries. As a center back, Pearce led a backline that needed leadership. At 27, he is in the peak of his career. He has a quirky personality and makes for an interesting interview.
The Bad: The most notable issue with Pearce during his tenure with Chivas was that he was not a vocal leader on the field. Instead, he preferred a "lead by example" approach. Although it is necessary for players to accommodate to their strengths and Pearce simply was not a vocal guy, Chivas desperately need more vocal leaders from veteran players. In addition, he has struggled so far in 2012. He dealt with some bad play during the preseason, including being completely turned inside out after giving up a ball in his own box against Club Tijuana. Players make mistakes, no question, but he was inconsistent this year in a way he wasn't for Chivas last season. If your style is to lead by example, and then you can't perform, it leaves a void at the club sometimes.
The Good: If the knock on Pearce is that he wasn't vocal, Califf is known for being a vocal leader. Serving as the captain of the Philadelphia Union, Califf provided experience and leadership for a very young team. While Chivas are an older team than the Union, Califf's experience in MLS can certainly help the young and new players to MLS on the team. And while I don't necessarily know if the captaincy will change, it's been floating around during Robin Fraser's entire tenure, and with Califf serving as captain in the league the past few years, he could potentially claim the armband and give that situation some stability.
The Bad: While Califf is playing in his natural position at center back, unlike Pearce, there is a good argument to be made that Pearce is a better defender overall in 2012. Califf is 32, and he's battled injuries, although some of the "injuries" this season have been fabrications by Peter Nowak, according to Califf. And while Nowak's attitude, in alienating Califf, and personnel moves the past 18 months have been utterly puzzling (leading to the catchphrase "Nowaked") I suppose there's a small chance that Califf could have played his fair share in butting heads with Nowak. I doubt he'll have any problems with Fraser, but I guess there's a very small chance he could be overly acclimated to his former situation.
The Good: On the field, Lahoud displayed a versatility in playing position. He's played most of his career as a midfielder, but he's moved from the wing to defensive midfield, and last season he played mostly as a full back. In 2011, Lahoud was one of the only players with any kind of speed, and while I wouldn't say his stint as a full back was a failure, he seems to be a better player in midfield. He looked re-energized coming into this season, and the hamstring injury probably contributed to his departure, frankly, as other players stepped in and performed well in his absence. Besides that, Lahoud was one of the best character guys on the team, doing extensive charity work, mentoring local youths, and being a good representative of the team. Obviously, on field performance comes first, but Philadelphia are getting a good guy in this deal.
The Bad: Lahoud has battled injury trouble in his career to date, struggling with concussion issues in past seasons in addition to this year's hamstring problems. That said, injury problems are not always persistent, and he may have a healthy career from here on out. I also think he is a guy who can play a few different positions on the field, but he's not made any of them his own for Chivas. With Philly, he may get an opportunity to establish himself, but he might also get moved around and find his effectiveness overall muted. Also, through no fault of his own, he may become something of a scapegoat in Philadelphia for being involved in the Califf trade. While I think Union fans will give him a chance, I think if he develops into a solid squad player, which could end up being his ceiling, it will not be considered good enough to many.
The Good: Agudelo unquestionably has the biggest upside of the quartet. At 19, he's already been capped as a senior U.S. international, and if he plays to his full capabilities, even at this age, he would likely be starting in nearly all MLS teams. As it was, he was playing behind Thierry Henry and either Luke Rodgers or Kenny Cooper, and come off the bench 60 percent of the time with the New York Red Bulls. While he might not necessarily be an automatic start for every match for Chivas, he will most likely get considerably more playing time. In addition, Agudelo can be a face for the franchise. While Juan Pablo Angel is a star as well, he is better known to hardcore soccer fans and Latino fans than to more casual fans, while Agudelo's prominent place in MLS and U.S. Men's National Team marketing gives him a wider cachet. As a Latino player who's mostly grown up in the U.S., Agudelo can act as a terrific bicultural representative for Chivas as well. An exciting young star with enormous potential playing for Chivas? Yes please.
The Bad: To a great extent, Agudelo is an unknown quantity. He's got great potential, yes, but he needs to develop that. He's shown a few signs of immaturity, which is concerning, but there could be two mitigating factors. First, he's 19, and we should probably remember that. Second, he was in what is widely regarded as another dysfunctional situation with the Red Bulls, and so his speaking out might have less to do with immaturity than with what was happening around him. Still, we'll have to see if he's hungry with Chivas, if he works hard every day, and if he can improve and become a bonafide star. And he should keep the cautionary tale of Freddy Adu in mind, in that he needs to really prove himself in MLS before moving on to a European club, something that is being projected for him in the next couple of years. If he's got an eye on Europe without putting in the work, he'll retard his progress and may get sold to a worse situation eventually. But if he blows the doors off the league and establishes himself as a Top 3 forward in this league at the least, then he'll position himself to get a much better situation in Europe.
Overall, Chivas are gaining some intangibles and losing others in these deals. While the deals look great at the moment, and seem to make Chivas a better team, Califf and Agudelo need to step up in order to mitigate the losses of Pearce and Lahoud, both directly and indirectly. There's considerable optimism, but let's see some results!
What do you think? Leave a comment below!