Jorge Villafana entered 2013 as Chivas USA's longest tenured player, and enjoyed possibly his best year as a Goat. Playing primarily as a midfielder, he reached a career high in assists in league play, with four, putting him in a tie for first on the team in that category. And his tireless work ethic put him in good stead throughout the middle of the season.
One of the questions entering the season for Sueño was whether he would play as a midfielder or fullback. In fact, with Chelís' three-man defense, it seemed Villafaña would be perfect as a wing back on the left hand side, and he did play in that position at times. But since the tactics and overall quality of the squad on the field were woefully inadequate by MLS standards, it is hard to know if he has the chops to play as a proper wing back. I still suspect he does, but it is tough to come up with a good evaluation based on the black hole (in a bad way) of Chivas' 2013 defense.
Still, he became a regular starter under Chelís, and he played regularly early on under Jose Luis Real, before falling out of the depth chart late in the season. If I recall correctly, he picked up an injury late in the year, but Real also seemed to prefer Bryan de la Fuente on the left wing after the Texan was re-signed in August. And that seems a bit strange, as it isn't as though Villafaña is old (he's currently 24), and as I said, he paced the team in assists.
One of the possible drawbacks I saw in Sueño's game in 2013 was his stamina. On one hand, you want to see players work hard, and frankly, Villafaña never looked like he was taking it easy. That's great, obviously something every manager wants to see. On the other hand, he had to be substituted out of the match early quite a bit, and in some games he stayed in even though he looked gassed at about the hour mark. There are some players who can't regulate their output and burn up their energy before 90 minutes. Villafaña might be one of them, and that means the coach has to budget a sub for his place, something that can throw a span in the works of a game plan.
Here are Villafaña's statistics with Chivas USA in 2013:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||20||15||1,432||1||4||16||2||2||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||2||1||165||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Although his stamina may have been an issue at times, and Real didn't seem all that impressed with him, I think Villafaña showed improvement in 2013. His crosses were crisper than they have been, and he was good at getting the ball into the box via cross or through a diagonal ball into the channel. He also demonstrated his one-on-one ability at times, which is underrated, and something he should flash more often.
If he is to continue to straddle the line between pure midfielder and defender, then he does need to continue to work on his defending. In some respects, he has rounded into a decent wide defender, but he still has trouble tracking back when he pushes up to get into the attack. He can stop attackers surprisingly well, but when he's beaten, he isn't all that great at recovering and getting back into the play.
Still, among the many, many players on display at Chivas in 2013, Villafaña had a better season than most. And there's something to be said for acquitting oneself well when playing on such a bad team.
Chivas traded Sueño to the Portland Timbers in December in exchange for Andrew Jean-Baptiste. On paper, it appears he will be a depth player on that team, but since they'll be playing in the CONCACAF Champions League in addition to MLS and the U.S. Open Cup, he may get some minutes. As someone who has shown he can start or come off the bench, that should also increase his chances of seeing action, and his positional versatility should also be a bonus.
Villafaña will be joined in Portland by former Chivas teammates Ben Zemanski and Rauwshan McKenzie. And he will be playing once again under coach Caleb Porter, who called Sueño up to the ill-fated U.S. Men's National Team U-23 squad that fell short of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics. With a coach who has a stable situation, a clear system, and success on his side, Villafaña could continue to grow as a player in this league.
I've already written about the loss of Villafaña, and won't rehash that here. But it is bittersweet to know that the local boy won't be suiting up with the Goats in 2014.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!