Chivas USA Homegrown player Marky Delgado made real inroads in his pro soccer career in 2013, seeing consistent minutes at one stretch of the season and playing in two positions. Given the upheaval and ultimately poor results at the club, Delgado was, and still is, one for the future.
The 18-year-old only made one appearance under Chelís, off the bench, so the departure of that coach certainly led to an uptick in fortune through an increase in first team minutes for the youngster. Under Jose Luis Real, Delgado started 13 consecutive matches and tried his hand at playing in a new position, right back.
Since Chivas more or less went without full backs in 2013 (Carlos Borja is a combo defender, though he ended up playing a lot of his minutes at defensive midfield for some reason), new guys had to step up and play in the full back positions, and Delgado was one of the main beneficiaries of this switch. Although he did see some time in the midfield, Chivas' greatest depth was in that area of the field, and with Eric Avila and Tristan Bowen taking nearly all of the minutes on the right side of midfield, Delgado's shift gave him a new opportunity.
Assessments were mixed regarding his ability at right back in 2013. Like any young player, and especially any player getting accustomed to a new position, he struggled at times, and given his inexperience, opponents often targeted him. Among those who watched the team regularly, I was probably more negative of Delgado's play in defense than most, simply because sticking with a young player learning the position is hard and bound to weaken the defense in the short term. It also doesn't guarantee he'll blossom into a good defender later on, especially if he is moved around the field like Jorge Villafana was.
Still, more than any other position on the field, full backs tend to be converted, not born. The questions are whether Chivas will go out and get bona fide full backs next year, and if they do, if the new coach will continue to groom Delgado as a defender.
Here are Delgado's statistics from 2013:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||16||13||1,247||0||1||6||0||2||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
I will say this: For all the struggles he may have had learning a new position, I think he showed enough skill to demonstrate he could hang in MLS. And really, given the low quality of the roster overall, that's a good threshold to cross. That also means he was better than much of the roster, even though he is just starting out in his career. And that certainly leaves one optimistic for the future.
One aspect of his game that I was quite impressed with in 2013 was his ability to dribble out of tight spaces. He schooled opponents on the touchline more than once when he was pushed forward in the midfield, and he not only showed technical skill, but also some flair. As Chivas USA fans, do we recall what that even means? I mean, I'd rather see wins than pretty dribbling in losses, but those glimpses of Delgado's skills were tantalizing, and if he can better develop his ability to cross, he could become a useful attacking weapon, even if he remains a defender.
All indications are that Delgado will be back with Chivas in 2014, and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing more of his development. He's still young, but he made big strides in 2013, and benefitted more than just about anybody in getting regular minutes to aid his future development. In other words, chucking him onto the field wasn't necessarily an act of desperation, but an opportunity to get used to playing in MLS in earnest.
He may become part of the U.S. Men's National Team U-20 player pool as the next U-20 World Cup cycle gets underway. With youth teams, it is hard to say for certain that a player will stay on the team as he moves up in age groups, but signs point to Delgado getting a shot. If that's the case, it should also help his development, and will give him an opportunity to play in high pressure games.
Can he make the next step up in 2014? Certainly getting a sense of stability at the club will trickle down to the players, including up-and-comers like Delgado. However, it is unclear if stability is coming. If Delgado can work on his game this offseason, and if the team can finally embark on a sensible plan that will stick, the benefits can pay off for player and team alike. But we shall see if the team will hold up their end of the bargain.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!