Heading into the season, if you would have told me that Miller Bolanos, Jose Correa, and Tristan Bowen would have scored zero goals and provided zero assists in the first month of the season, despite playing a combined 548 minutes, I would have figured Chivas USA was struggling mightily during the first five games. In fact, the team leads the league in goals as of Saturday morning, and are one of the surprise teams in the league to this point in the season. Many of the newcomers to the team have stepped up to score, as has Juan Agudelo, who is playing in his natural position and is hungry to prove himself.
On that count, who cares about the current form of Bolaños, Correa, and Bowen, right? Well, I think it matters. They, along with Agudelo, are the most productive attacking players from 2012 to return to the team this year, and one would expect them to move forward this season, now that the goal-scoring tap appears to have been opened.
For Bolaños and Correa, injuries appear to have slowed them down so far this season. I mentioned this earlier this week but it is worth noting again that teams don't have to disclose injuries this season, and so Bolaños' status has been uncertain all year. When asked after the season opening 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew why Agudelo and Bolaños only came off the bench, Chelís said that both were dealing with injuries and he didn't want to risk them. Bolaños played 45 minutes in that match, then started the next game before coming off after 64 minutes against FC Dallas, and he looked largely ineffective in that stretch. We heard nothing about his injury status until this week, when the club disclosed he was dealing with an ankle injury. So perhaps this has been hobbling him the whole time, and Chelís is trying to give him time to recover before putting him on the field.
Likewise for Correa, who has also looked pretty ineffective in playing the last four matches, three of which he entered as a sub. He did set up Jalil Anibaba's own goal in the win over Chicago, so that's a plus, but he has apparently been working through a groin injury the past couple weeks, and maybe that has set him back a touch so far. He also looks like a player who doesn't have the instincts he showed early last season, but it looks like Chelís is giving him chances to get in on the scoring in order to pick up his confidence. It makes sense, but hopefully he can recover from his injury and get clicking sooner rather than later.
Bowen has been the biggest enigma of the trio. There has been no indication he's had any injuries so far this season, and he's currently eighth on the team in minutes played. Although it seemed like he would do well in the new system this season, as last year he showed substantial improvement as a wing player setting up his teammates, he hasn't been involved in the goals or assists at all yet. I think it is clear that when he starts with Agudelo he's very much a support striker, but Agudelo is getting (and will get much more of) the attention of opposing defenses, and Bowen should be able to step up and notch a goal or two. He's working hard, but something seems to be missing in his game so far this season.
Above all, the good news is that with so much of the season ahead, all three of these players have plenty of time to get healthy and get right on the field. Remember, Bowen didn't make his 2012 season debut until mid-August, and Bolaños was essentially the only player on the team to improve in the second half of 2012. But with so much going right for the Goats right now, it is useful to recall that the attack isn't even working at its best just yet, and that could potentially be very exciting indeed.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!