CARSON, CA - MAY 04: Villafana's been with the Goats longer than anybody. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Let's start off with a bit of trivia: which Chivas USA player is the longest continually on the roster? Jorge Villafana. That's right, Sueño is the veteran who has seen most of the team's tenure in MLS, at the ripe old age of 22.
Ok, now name the remaining players who played for the team before Robin Fraser's arrival.
I'll give you a hint: there's only three more.Ante Jazic, Dan Kennedy, and Ben Zemanski.
Those four players are the only ones to carry over from the 2010 roster, out of a current roster of 28. Of the remaining 24, two were obtained in the 2010 offseason before Fraser arrived, Tristan Bowen and Alejandro Moreno. Three players, Juan Pablo Angel, Nick LaBrocca, and Laurent Courtois, were added in 2011. That means the remaining 19 players on the roster were added to the team in 2012, either in the offseason (12) or during the season (7).
Lest we forget, the 2010 and 2011 teams performed pretty badly, and I don't think too many people would want to stick with the rosters from those seasons outright. And as for the "final four," I think all of them contribute to the team on a regular basis. The outlier is Villafana, who's moved between midfield and defense and has been used mostly as a reserve this season, but even he has contributed at times.
By way of contrast, let's look at the current Western Conference leaders, the San Jose Earthquakes. Although San Jose made the playoffs in 2010, they finished two points ahead of Chivas in 2011 and were not a particularly good team. Also, unlike Chivas, San Jose have had the same coach, Frank Yallop, since the club was re-established in 2007. Still, let's see how much stability and turnover their roster has had since 2010.
12 players currently on the roster joined the Earthquakes in 2010 or earlier, while five players were added in 2011 who remain with the team. 11 players joined the team in 2012.
As we can see, San Jose have retained three times as many players as Chivas since 2010 or earlier. Considering the poor seasons both teams had, their retention numbers from players added in 2011 are similar. And San Jose has added 12 to Chivas' 19 players this year. Both teams have 28 players currently on their roster, so that means the Quakes have added about 43 percent of their roster in 2012, while Chivas have added a whopping 68 percent.
Even the most successful MLS clubs feature a fair amount of turnover from year to year, so it cannot be expected that a roster will remain largely intact for years on end. But make no mistake: with the roster turnover for Chivas since Fraser's arrival, this has to be considered Fraser's team.
We can approach this fact in two ways. The pessimistic side would contend that Fraser has had nearly two seasons to craft Chivas into a winning team, and he's not been able to make it happen. Chivas currently sit nine points behind their total of last season, 36, and they have 12 more games to go. It seems entirely reasonable, if not assured, that Chivas can eclipse their point total in 2011. That would be improvement, but unless it included a berth in the playoffs, it would be somewhat hollow. And with the fact that Chivas appear farther and farther from contending in the league with less investment than most clubs, it seems like the dream of having a cup is getting more and more distant by the year.
Here's the caveat to that point: Fraser only has so much money to work with. We all know that the ownership has given Fraser and Jose Domene a very difficult task: try to win on a shoestring budget. So for all the faults in the pieces on the field, Fraser cannot be blamed for all of the failings.
And this is the optimistic view to Fraser's tenure to date: the man needs more time. If he is willing to continue to work with strict financial confines, then by year six (the equivalent to Yallop's current year in charge of San Jose) perhaps the team will be fully stocked with Fraser's preferred players, and maybe the personnel and tactics will fully match up, and maybe Chivas will be at the top of the standings with only a couple of months left in the season.
Would you be willing to wait until 2016 for that to happen with Chivas? I imagine that will split opinion, and it would depend greatly on what the intervening three seasons or so look like. Will Fraser hang around until 2016 without a playoff appearance? Probably not, but he probably also deserves another season to see if he can adjust the roster further. Anyone who follows the team wants to see a winner, and there seem to be some good players who can make an impact for seasons to come that are currently on the roster. But the team is outside of the playoff picture for another season, and while hope is alive, it is fading by the game. Changes will need to be made in the offseason, but do you want to see 86 percent of the roster turn over in two seasons? Another rebuilding project would be painful and drawn out. Even if Fraser has produced mixed results, he probably should get more time. Still, a good end to 2012 would set the tone in a positive way for 2013, and that could quiet the doubters, at least for the short term.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!