We finish off the player evaluations at the midpoint of the season today, by looking at the forwards. Although it is not a stretch to argue that Chivas USA's forwards as a corps are more talented than they were last season, the results haven't been as promising as one would hope. Although most teams have played more games than Chivas' 17 at this point, Chivas are far and away behind the pack in goals scored in MLS this season, with 11. The next most futile team in the league at the moment is the Columbus Crew, who have scored 17, or an average of once every match. By contrast, Chivas are averaging 0.65 goals a game. Since forwards are the players most responsible for getting goals, there has to be accountability on their part if the ball's not going in the back of the net. Last season at the midway point, the forwards on the team had scored 10 goals in the league. This season, the forwards have nine goals in the league, and another six in the U.S. Open Cup.
With that, let's evaluate the players individually:
Juan Pablo Angel: It is probably most appropriate to start with the grand veteran of the team with JPA. The Colombian has the team league in goals scored in league play (3) and is tied for team lead in goals scored in all competitions at this point of the season (4). By relative standards, it is great news that Angel is still producing and producing at a level that is higher than the rest of the team, despite only playing nine of 17 league matches. But it's relative - JPA is ranked 52nd in the league at this point in goals. The burden doesn't solely rest on him, and the scoring woes of the midfield means the pressure has been placed on the strikers without getting consistent service, but three goals for the team lead in the lowest-scoring team in the league is simply not good enough. If he can stay healthy and can get to something approaching 10 goals for the season, it will represent a good total for JPA.What helps JPA's midseason grade is in the intangibles. In particular, he's been credited with already helping the young striker corps on the squad, particularly Jose Correa and Juan Agudelo. As a mentor who is imparting his experience and wisdom to the new generation of young professionals, he's been a great addition in his first full season with the team. If he and the rest of his cohort can pick up the scoring in the second half, then spirits surrounding the forwards will be considerably higher.
Angel's Midseason Grade: B-
Jose Correa: The Colombian "teenager" shares the team lead in goals scored in all competitions with four, won U.S. Open Cup player of the quarterfinal round, and scored the winning penalty to beat the LA Galaxy in his third game in MLS. Although Agudelo gets the lion's share of attention around MLS for his prior history, Correa has to be considered a very promising young forward and as exciting of a prospect as Agudelo. With two goals in six league appearances, his strike rate has been decent, but it does seem like he could have more. Time will tell if he can pick up the scoring load, but the fact that he's scored four very distinctive goals (a poke on a cross, a penalty, a breakaway rounding the goalkeeper, and a header) since joining Chivas in May shows signs that the youngster can be a force. If he receives better service, and if Chivas can get some kind of attacking rhythm going, Correa could be a star as soon as this season.
Correa's Midseason Grade: B-
Juan Agudelo: The U.S. international has played five league games, scoring one and creating a goal, and providing an additional goal and assist in the Open Cup this year. He's been slowed by a knee injury in the last couple weeks, and there have to be a few concerns about his durability with the knee ailment moving forward, but it can't be denied that Agudelo has given Chivas a spark they did not have before his arrival in mid-May. One goal in five games isn't a terrific strike rate, but Chivas' attack has ground to a halt recently. It will be up to Agudelo, Correa, and JPA to help energize the attack from the front if the team has any hope of staying in the playoff hunt. It is certainly possible, but if Agudelo wants to be a star, he needs to pick up his production for the rest of the season. He has the potential, but if he wants to move to Europe, he should dominate in MLS first.
Agudelo's Midseason Grade: C+
Alejandro Moreno: The forward who no longer plays forward very much, it is tough to evaluate Moreno, now that he's playing farther back in midfield now in order to play to his strengths of holding onto the ball and drawing fouls. He is largely effective in this task, but it must be said that the fouls he wins tend to be around the center line, and as a result he doesn't set up his team with good set piece opportunities most of the time. Still, his experience is useful and he is still good at getting poacher's goals, as his tally against the Seattle Sounders in league play proved, when his hip got between Agudelo's shot and goal and still went in the net. Still, despite his two goals this season, Moreno can't be called on for any consistent production, and five goals in a season seem to be about his ceiling at this point in his career. Chivas need a player in the midfield who can pull the strings and set up the attack, and if that such player was acquired this season (it seems unlikely despite the need) I don't believe there should be much hesitation that Moreno should be sacrificed in the lineup.
Moreno's Midseason Grade: D+
Cesar Romero: He hasn't played many minutes this season in the league, getting just three starts, and he's yet to score in MLS. He has taken over the corner kick duties when he's on the field in recent months, and he has an assist from that. He also has two USOC goals, including one against MLS opposition this past week when the Goats played the Sounders in the semifinals. Romero does seem to be a player who is looking for his best position. Billed as a forward in the preseason, he has spent some time up top, but more often than not he's played on the wing, as a withdrawn striker, or even in midfield. Although I think he could find a way to get in the lineup more often if he continues to develop his set piece abilities, he still seems pretty unpolished while running around the field. I think he's a player to develop for next season potentially, but it's a tough call considering the turnover that takes place in MLS every season. Romero's shown signs of promise, but his place on the depth chart and the limited minutes he's seen so far this season means he probably won't break through in 2012.
Romero's Midseason Grade: Incomplete
Casey Townsend: In a very similar position to Romero, Townsend has seen his stock plummet from being projected to being a frequent contributor to somebody who hasn't started since the beginning of April. It has to be a frustrating rookie season so far, but Townsend has shown signs of promise. Much like Romero, however, he's buried on the depth chart and will need to wait for injury or a change in the philosophy by Robin Fraser to see much action in the second half of the season. Townsend does have a game-winning goal, is a prodigious header of the ball, and is a player that fans are excited about. I think he is rough around the edges, but he does need to see more time before we can give a full evaluation of his abilities in MLS.
Townsend's Midseason Grade: Incomplete
What do you think? Leave a comment below!