Heading into the season, it appeared Oswaldo Minda would not be returning to Chivas USA. After a very strong 2012 season, one in which, yes, he lead the league in yellow cards but provided a style of play to match up with the physicality of the play in the league, he was inexplicably dropped in favor of Shalrie Joseph late last season, and it appeared he was unwanted heading into this year.
Still, after seeing the lay of the land, both player and club came together and worked out a way for him to return to the Goats for a second season. However, the implied indignities did not end there. After officially reporting late to camp, while working out his contract situation, Minda got hurt and was limited for much of the rest of the camp. He lost his number 8 from last season, instead being given number 30 for the season. I have no idea if Edgar Mejia was given 8 because Minda was expected to be out the door, or if Minda is partial in any way to 30. Both of those factors could be positive. Still, taking away your starting holding midfielder's number is a pretty big indication that you think he's no big deal.
As a result of all that, I wondered if Minda really would get much playing time to start the season. Chivas USA coach Chelís elected to use Mejia (who will be an automatic starter barring injury or suspension, one must figure) and Marvin Iraheta in the first match as the holding midfielders. I think in the first two games, Mejia has shown some really good and some pretty bad skills. I don't think there's anything in his game that is fatally flawed, but he will definitely not get stuck in the same way as many defensive midfielders in MLS, and his service on set pieces has not been impressive early on. Hopefully, he can find a balance to smooth out the rough edges so far this season. Iraheta, on the other hand, endured a tough game in his professional debut. I think Columbus is bigger and more physical than some teams in MLS, but just about every image in my mind and actual photograph I can find is him riding an opponent or putting in a risky challenge. You can't expect a player to be flawless the first time out, but it seemed odd that Iraheta would be preferred over Minda.
To my surprise last week, Chelís replaced Iraheta with Minda, and the move was a masterstroke. Throughout the game Sunday, Minda harassed Dallas players, fouling when he needed to and picking up his customary yellow card. I know I've written about it a lot over the last year, but every team needs a pest, and Minda plays the role to a T.
What was evident on Sunday was the all-around aspect to his game. If you take a look at his chalkboard of the game, you will notice first that he conceded six fouls on the day, but like a good defensive midfielder, all of these fouls were far from Chivas' box, all near the center line. This is the bread and butter of Minda's game, and he did the basic element of his job well.
Second, you'll see on the chalkboard that he defended all over the field. A valid complaint for both Chivas and Dallas in the game was that both sides really lost their shape overall as the game wore on, and that's why four goals were scored in about the last half hour of the game. Minda's fouls were all clustered to the left of the field, but he defended all over Chivas' half, and recorded OPTA events all over the place. Whether that was out of necessity or by design is tough to say, but as a defensive midfielder, certainly he has the flexibility to roam around in most systems to defend when necessary.
Finally, Minda had three shots on the day, including the winning goal. All of his shots were from approximately the same area in Dallas' box, and all heading in the same direction. Minda's offensive prowess is probably not something to count on, although if Chivas do score with more regularity than last season, he could be in the running for more that a single goal. Still, having the offensive contributions, especially the goal that gave Chivas the three points ultimately, displayed a rather unknown side to Minda's game and provided a capper on a strong performance overall.
I don't think Chelís will leave Minda on the bench anytime soon after last week's performance, though you never know. If Minda continues to collect yellow cards at a prodigious rate, he'll get suspended, and he's basically always playing on the edge of a red card, so he'll surely be sent off at some point. In that case, grooming Iraheta to be a serviceable backup needs to remain a concern for the roster over the course of the season. Still, Minda showed his class on Sunday, and his surprising two-way game ended up making the overall difference in the game for Chivas.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!