If ever there was a symbol for the trainwreck of a season Chivas USA had in 2013, it had to be the circumstances surrounding defender Joaquin Velazquez's arrival. Recruited by Chelís as one of "his guys," along with fellow defender Walter Vilchez, Velazquez had been out of the professional game in Mexico. Not by a few months, either. He hadn't played since the fall of 2010, when his time with Puebla ended abruptly over a dispute with the club.
So if you're keeping track at home, Velazquez hadn't played pro ball in over two years when he was signed by Chivas USA at Chelís' request. And he had been part of Chelís' coaching staff in Mexico after the boss left Puebla. On top of all that, he was 37 years old at the time.
Now, I suppose one could make a case that maybe signing a guy like Velazquez could be useful in the sense that he could provide experience to what was a very young roster, and be a depth option in case other centerbacks were unavailable.
But no. Chelís played him every game in charge, and one of the best moves Jose Luis Real made when he took over was turning to other options at the position, which led to Velazquez's hasty exit by the end of June.
A lot of the problem with Velazquez wasn't the player himself, though he was far from a strong defender, but with the idea that a 37-year-old who had been out of the game for two and a half years would be able to jump into MLS straightaway. So what if Chelís wanted to bring "his" guy over, that's an opportunity for the management to say, "Come on now, you can have some input, but isn't this guy a little long in the tooth?"
Nope. The Goats signed him, and even went to the step of signing him to Chivas de Guadalajara and loaning him to Chivas USA, presumably to avoid discovery claim issues, and that was that.
Here are Velazquez's statistics for 2013:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||12||12||985||1||0||5||4||3||1|
|U.S. Open Cup||1||1||90||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Now, let's talk about Velazquez's actual play. Like most of his teammates, his season was not without some bright spots, including a goal in Chivas' commanding road win over Chicago early on. And though it wasn't a good moment per se, Velazquez was vindicated following his red card against the LA Galaxy, as it was repealed when replays showed that Colin Clark (badly) faked the aftermath of a poor foul, and Chivas' prior physicality in the match led to the Mexican getting ejected for no legitimate reason.
I'd also say that he had a knack for making some good goal line clearances, so his positioning was at times decent enough to block shots.
But he was unbelievably slow, and he could not keep up with opponents bombarding Chivas' box with bodies and balls in. Perhaps worse than that, when the going got tough, as it did quickly after the first month of the season, Velazquez didn't seem like the kind of guy who was going to rally the team and try and get them to pick up their energy level. He just seemed like a guy who was overmatched and not really capable of providing the leadership the group needed.
All in all, it was an undistinguished tenure for the defender. Again, you can't fault a guy for trying to get back into the game when given an opportunity, I suppose, but on paper it looked like a mistake, and that's exactly how it turned out to be.
Is it safe to say Velazquez is truly done playing? I guess if a team offers him a contract, you never know, but at 38 I think it's pretty likely over. As mentioned above, he had prior assistant coaching experience, so maybe he'll go back to that.
According to the MLS Players Union, his contract in 2013 with Chivas was an even $100,000, and I don't think he'll be getting offered that again to play. I guess paying that much for a reserve on a team as cheap as Chivas USA wouldn't have been a fantastic use of precious resources, but yeah, it would have been better than playing and being a liability every game.
Will we ever see him back in MLS again, on the coaching side? Eh, probably not.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!
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