Carlos Borja entered rarefied air in 2013, becoming to my knowledge the first player to join Chivas USA for a third time in his career. Borja had last played for the Goats in 2010, but had been a mainstay at the LA Blues in the intervening two years, and it wasn't much of a surprise to see him back with Chivas in 2013.
The (mostly) defender had by far his most productive season in 2013, making a total of 28 appearances across all competitions and notching his first assists in MLS, including the pass to set up Carlos Alvarez's unforgettable game-tying goal against the LA Galaxy.
In fact, unlike most of his teammates, Borja became a fixture in the lineup after being mostly out of the mix early in Chelís' run with the team. Unfortunately, that means he was not part of Chivas' most productive period of the season, but I doubt Borja was the sole reason Chivas were so bad in 2013.
Given the three-man defense to start the season, it seemed like Borja's ability to play as both a right back and center back would suit him well for the system, but as I mentioned, he didn't get much action early on. Though he did start seeing time with Chelís just prior to the latter's firing, he was often played in the midfield, as a defensive midfielder, and Jose Luis Real evidently liked what he saw, because Borja became a fixture in his lineup, often playing d-mid as well.
What's puzzling is why Borja was switched out of the defense, especially after Real implemented a four-man defense following his arrival. Basically, Borja was the only true full back on the squad, and he didn't even play there most of the time. Was he that bad as a defender, or were the coaches enamored of his skills further up the field?
It appears it was the latter, though there was a bizarre set of dominoes that led to the positions switch. Chelís and Real would not or could not play the team's best defensive midfielder, Oswaldo Minda, much of the season, whether due to injury or the fact that the team wanted to get rid of the player. The main alternative at the position, Marvin Iraheta, did not look ready to be a regular starter in MLS, so Borja was pushed into the position. Certainly, he showed an aptitude for quality passes at times, which probably also excited Chivas' coaches.
But then that left a platoon of midfielders to play full back, as Josue Soto, Gabriel Farfan, and Jorge Villafana manned the left side and Marky Delgado ended up manning the right. But none of those guys had the reps at full back that Borja had. And yet he played in the midfield. On some level, I just have to shake my head at how this squad was used.
Here are Borja's statistics in 2013:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||26||22||2,010||0||2||2||0||5||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||2||2||210||0||0||0||0||2||0|
One of the off-the-field bonuses of Borja's return to the club was his presence on social media. During the season, Chivas turned over their social media to players several times, and the one who seemed to make the most of it was Borja, as his photos of teammates and staff sleeping on road trips was silly, but demonstrated his sense of humor and an ability to poke fun at pro sports. He appears to have an ability to connect with fans that few of his teammates demonstrated, so Chivas would be wise to play that up in marketing efforts, if he is set to continue with the club, of course.
On the field, how would I ultimately rate Borja's season? I suppose he was fine, but I'm still perplexed as to why he played a new position. I think he could be groomed into becoming a defensive midfielder, but that doesn't happen overnight, and I'd rather see this team find some full backs, since that is by far their most critical position at the moment (Borja remains the only full back on the roster, in a technical sense). Chivas' defense was terrible, so he can't really cover himself in glory, but that doesn't mean he's a lost cause. Another season? To me, the jury is still out on this player.
Borja remains on the roster on the team's website, so I'm figuring he'll be back for the 2014 season. At 25, he probably doesn't have much room for growth, but if Wilmer Cabrera can help usher in some stability, it could certainly help guys like Borja. He made the regular veteran minimum of $46,500 last season, so he is not a cost concern whatsoever.
I think Borja has a place on this team in 2014, for sure. I'm just not sure if he has a place in the starting lineup, and if he does, what position he'll be playing. But we will find out in the weeks to come.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!
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