Like his teammate and compatriot Edgar Mejia, Mario de Luna came to Chivas USA in 2013 with the promise that the front office was going to incorporate the MLS club with Chivas de Guadalajara's operations better. As a consequence of the uniting of the clubs, players would be sent from Mexico once again, but this time, they would be better. Mejia and de Luna were the standard bearers of that policy. Two players who had been starters with Chivas de Guadalajara in the past, these guys would help usher in the new rebuilding project., the one that would turn Chivas USA into a winner.
Well, it didn't quite work out that way.
De Luna fell out of favor in Guadalajara in 2012 and was loaned out to the California branch for 2013. He wasn't huge by MLS standards but it seemed like he had enough to get the job done. But as it turned out, de Luna had one elite skill in MLS, which was making sliding tackles in Chivas' 18-yard box. When he was able to get down and dispossess the opponent without causing a penalty, it was practically beautiful to watch.
On the other hand, de Luna wasn't fast enough, he wasn't quite strong enough, and worst of all he made way too many mental errors. And all of this came as he was effectively the rock of the defense and of the outfield players in general, as he played nearly every game for the Goats in 2013.
Here are de Luna's statistics in 2013:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||30||30||2,637||1||0||7||2||6||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||2||2||210||0||0||0||0||1||0|
As I indicated with Mejia's season review, de Luna may also be saddled with being the symbol of Chivas USA's "new era" when it turned out to be a flaming disaster. I think the truth is that de Luna was billed as a cut above the previous players sent from Guadalajara. While that may be factually correct, it still didn't warrant building the team around him. De Luna got beat all the time in the center of defense. He had quite possibly the worst own goal you'll ever see. He shoved a ball kid during a game, and as I wrote at the time, regardless of whether the ball kid should have given him the ball more easily or whatever, grown men never look good shoving kids.
Perhaps most damning of all, despite playing in all but four of Chivas' competitive games in 2013, the Goats went 2-1-1 in the games de Luna missed. Of course, simply taking de Luna out of the lineup wouldn't have resulted in Chivas having a winning record, and four games is a very small sample size, but if de Luna was the favored center back, as the actions of Chelís and Jose Luis Real indicate, then Chivas' defense was really, really bad indeed. The 26-year-old may have been a regular starter, but the bottom line was that he wasn't up to snuff in MLS, and his legacy with this club will be as yet another "Chivas reject" who couldn't make the grade in the U.S. either.
De Luna was sent back to Mexico following the season, which wasn't really surprising. Then, he was sent with Mejia on loan straightaway to Puebla for the 2014 Clausura. There have only been two games played so far in the Liga MX season, but de Luna hasn't featured for his new club yet.
According to the figures released by the MLS Players Union, de Luna made $120,000 in 2013 (base and guaranteed). That isn't a massive amount, but it frees up money to hopefully go to a player who can contribute in 2014. The payroll can't get much lower than it was in 2013, after all, though I don't want Jorge Vergara to take me up on that challenge and slash it even more.
I think de Luna will probably bounce around Liga MX for the foreseeable future, possibly landing with a side near the bottom of the table and getting consistent minutes again. But I'm pretty sure he won't be back in MLS again.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!