Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
With the season upon us, we retool our depth chart once more.
With Chivas USA kicking off their 2013 MLS campaign this weekend, and the overhaul this roster has gone through, one has to wonder which players will play an important role in finding success this season. We previously wrote about the team depth and how we thought it would play out, but it seems we are in need of an update (especially considering a few of the players we previously mentioned are no longer on the team). Alicia has already previewed who she would expect in the starting XI, and since I agree with her there, I am using that as a basis for determining how our depth will work out.
Our goalkeeping crew has not changed. As expected, we still have Dan Kennedy, Tim Melia, and Patrick McLain. Despite the drama and potential suffering fans went through when rumors came up about Kennedy leaving, he is with the team and the captain, as he should be, really. There isn’t much more to say here, as this unit was the best one last season and is the one highlight we can always rely on. Obviously, we would expect to see Melia on the bench every week, and I would hope, McLain during U.S. Open Cup matches.
The defense is where a lot of questions come up. First of all, as Alicia has previously discussed, defensive depth exists, but only when the team consistently plays a three man backline. Should Chelis decide to use four defenders, the amount of defenders we have could come into question. Bobby Burling, Carlos Borja, Steve Purdy, Mario de Luna, Joaquin Velazquez, Walter Vilchez, and Emilio Orozco make up our defensive options. While Ante Jazic is listed as being on the roster, he never featured for the team during preseason, so his status is still up in the air. Because of this, I am omitting him from consideration for the time being. We foresee Bobby Burling, Walter Vilchez, and Mario de Luna in the starting lineup. I would expect Carlos Borja to make the bench, as well as Steve Purdy or Emilio Orozco. One thing to note about Orozco, based off preseason matchups, is that he has played as a defender and defensive midfielder. When figuring out who would be a bench player, depending on the team situation or match, I would debate whether to select either Purdy or Orozco as the sixth bench player, or another forward such as Jose Correa.
As far as the midfield goes, Alicia predicted we would see Laurent Courtois, Edgar Mejia, Marvin Iraheta, Giovani Casillas, and Eric Avila. This leaves Carlos Alvarez, Josue Soto, Oswaldo Minda, Marky Delgado, and Jorge Villafana. Miller Bolanos, while listed as a midfielder, should see a starting position higher up on the field. I would expect to see Minda and Alvarez on the bench. As of writing this, Marky Delgado tweeted that he would be watching the season opener in the stands, so that is pretty indicative of his status in the depth charts for the team.
In terms of forwards, as I already said, Alicia predicts Bolaños will start up top with Juan Agudelo. Tristan Bowen has come off the bench in preseason games and seemingly made an impact based on match reports, so I would expect to see his name on the bench. The other listed forwards on the team roster are Jose Correa and Giovani Casillas, who, as we’ve noted, has gotten minutes in the midfield. So how does this stack up so far?
Starting XI: Dan Kennedy; Bobby Burling, Walter Vilchez, Mario de Luna; Laurent Courtois, Edgar Mejia, Marvin Iraheta, Giovani Casillas, Eric Avila; Miller Bolaños, Juan Agudelo
Bench: Tim Melia, Carlos Borja/Jorge Villafana, Carlos Alvarez, Oswaldo Minda, Tristan Bowen, Steve Purdy/Emilio Orozco/Jose Correa
As I said before, I think the sixth bench position will be determined as the season goes on. If things go as plan with the offense in terms of creating chances and scoring goals, I would expect to see another defensive option in that spot.
When discussing depth for the whole season, I think the most important positions to keep an eye on are defense and forward. I sincerely hope Ante Jazic is a part of this squad for a couple of reasons. First, he has been one of our most consistent players for the past couple seasons and it would be a travesty to let him go. Second, he would bring necessary MLS veteran experience to this squad. Sure, Bobby Burling is probably most experienced player of the rest of the guys in MLS play, but one guy who, frankly, has not played all that well in recent seasons is not the way to go here.
In terms of forwards, I think the depth here will depend on how the team relies on the midfield. Casillas is listed as a forward, but will probably slot into the midfield and play back a little. He may even interchange with Bolaños a bit. However, that still leaves Agudelo, Bowen, and Correa. Questions marks arise for me when thinking about how sustainable this group will be for the whole season. Besides potential injuries, I wonder how the group will function both when Agudelo is gone on national team duty, and when he will eventually leave the team. Now, we don’t know how much he will factor into Klinsmann’s group for World Cup Qualifying, but I would expect him to be included in the rumored May/June friendly matches, and this summer’s Gold Cup B squad. The summer is key – as we’ve seen the past couple of years, this team starts off well but once we get through summer, it all goes downhill. If Agudelo is the key forward he is expected to be this summer, that loss could be detrimental. Further, if (and when, as far as I’m concerned) he transfers to Europe this summer, will someone else be signed in his place? Or would they continue on as usual and rely on the midfield? I know I’ve harped on and on about Agudelo and his potential departure in other articles, but it is a strong concern that I have, especially with the way this team has been dealing with transfers this offseason.
Another minor depth question is how much we’ll see of Marky Delgado and Josue Soto this season. I say minor because they are the two midfielders not in the 18, and the team is expecting to hinge most of the play out of the midfield. The 3-5-2 requires a lot of endurance and quality week in, week out and we’re not yet sure how this will work every week. Obviously there will be tired legs, so will we see Chelis changing up the lineups frequently? Or will he expect his guys every week at 100%?
What do you think about Chivas USA’s depth for the season? Concerns? Critiques? Let us know in the comments!