Chivas USA 2013 Player Postmortem: Bryan de la Fuente

De la Fuente: Paid his dues, got back in the game. - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A good story, and what looks like a pretty good player to boot.

In a season that had far too many bad moments for Chivas USA, forward Bryan de la Fuente's story provided a bright spot. By the end of 2013, he had resurrected his professional soccer career, and showed he had what it takes to make it in MLS. Frankly, it's a story that should be more widely shared.

De la Fuente originally signed as a homegrown player with the Goats in August 2010, making a lone brief substitute appearance in league play in his first stint with Chivas, before being released by the team following the 2011 season.

He went to Mexico after that, signing a deal with Club Tijuana and playing in their youth set-up for a time before they cut him loose last year.

By the summer of 2013, de la Fuente was back with Chivas USA, but playing for their amateur U-23 team. Still, he played well enough that he was offered a pro contract to rejoin the first team, and that he did. The good news, I suppose, for the rest of the U-23 team is that management showed it can be a means to earn a pro contract with the club, though de la Fuente is the only one so far to make that jump.

It would have been a nice story, but de la Fuente played right away after being re-signed in August, starting in every single match for the rest of the season. Here are his stats from playing with the senior team in 2013:

Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 11 11 884 2 0 8 3 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 11 11 884 2 0 8 3 0 0

What made de la Fuente's season even better was that he scored in his first game back, the day after his deal was announced, and ended up scoring twice during the season.

And the goals weren't only what impressed me about de la Fuente. He usually played out on the left wing, showing a versatility to play on the flank as well as come inside and get into the box. He had bursts of speed and a good workrate. De la Fuente dribbled at opponents, something too few of his teammates did in 2013. He also linked up well with fellow youngsters Erick Torres and Carlos Alvarez.

So it wasn't a run-of-the-mill MLS season for the 21-year-old. If we're going to be picky, perhaps he could have scored more, especially with Chivas' attack going AWOL once again in the last month of the season. And it is unclear what his ceiling will be. But 2013 provided a tantalizing glimpse for the future, in addition to redeeming de la Fuente's journey in becoming a professional.

Future:

Though details of his contract were not disclosed back in August, I've seen no mention that he won't be back for 2014. He was making the absolute minimum this year, the "developmental" deal of $35,125, so even if he got bumped up to the regular minimum, his salary hit should be no concern whatsoever.

In hindsight, the writing was probably on the wall for Jorge Villafana when de la Fuente came in, as the Texan was favored over Sueño by Jose Luis Real. Although I've written about my sadness over Villafaña's departure, I do think de la Fuente played well on the whole.

Moving into 2014, de la Fuente must, like all of his teammates, win the confidence of Chivas USA's next coach, whoever that will be, and continue to develop his game. In particular, his skillset indicates that he should be a player who can both score and set up teammates, so working on all facets of his offensive game, from crosses to finishing, will do him and the team a lot of good.

Again, 11 games isn't a massive sample size to determine the rest of de la Fuente's career, but I had basically no expectations when he was signed, and he did impress me. He needs to be more consistent and raise his game in order to compete in MLS week in and week out, but 2013 was a good start in reaching that objective. He's on the team -- now he needs to become a core member of the squad.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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