First, a disclaimer: I have publicly proclaimed Laurent Courtois to be my favorite soccer player. I'm not saying he's the best player around, or that he heroically saved a family of cats from a burning building (although he might have, who knows?). But I'm on record, and I intend to stick with that proclamation. So be warned, that my exuberance about Courtois may be puzzling.
In all seriousness, Courtois had a short stint with Chivas USA in 2011, after signing with the club at the end of July from Grenoble. The Frenchman has traveled all over Europe prior to coming to Southern California, with stints at Ajaccio, Toulouse, West Ham United, and Levante. He is 33, which isn't exactly young, but Chivas needed a consistent winger that could provide service into the box for the forwards.In all, Courtois played in 11 of the 13 games he was available after his signing, started three matches, and played 454 minutes in 2011. Although I expected to see him starting more towards the end of the season, I'm not sure if Robin Fraser wanted to bring him along slowly this season or if he really prefers him as a substitute. Perhaps the long layoff this summer between the end of Grenoble's season meant he wasn't at full match fitness this season, so there was no point in risking injury.
Courtois did not have any assists in 2011 with the Goats, but he scored a goal. On August 20, he got the goal to secure a come from behind 2-2 draw for Chivas against the Colorado Rapids. It was a great performance from him, as he made a couple of good runs into the box in order to try and get a scoring chance, with one of those chances paying off. As a winger, the preference would be for him to stay along the left side of the field, but I think he understood that the Chivas forward corps had little chance of getting in the box to get in position, and he took matters upon himself. In that match, it made a big difference.
From there, he stayed mostly as a winger for the rest of the season. I do think he can mix it up, as he showed against Toronto FC on September 24, when he was locked in a battle with Richard Eckersley that got pretty physical. So he has shown in limited time that he is capable of showing a nose for goal and he can neutralize fullbacks. His passing is pretty good, and hopefully he can provide assists from the left moving forward.
That's the big question here. It is somewhat difficult to assess Courtois and fellow MLS newbie David Junior Lopes since they need time to adjust to the league, get back to match fitness and also show us what they got. I think Courtois showed glimpses of why he was signed, but we'll have to see what he can do in a full season with a training camp. Does he have something left to contribute consistently? Or can he show his skill only in brief glimpses?
That we will have to wait for. In the meantime, there is Courtois' twitter activity (@laurentcourtois) to keep you occupied. While I don't think professional athletes have any obligation to interact with fans on social media, Courtois is active and seems to genuinely enjoy communicating with fans. Obviously, that's not any reason to keep a guy on the team in future seasons, just because he seems nice, but it does give fans a reason to root for him. Like I said, I'm going to keep rooting for my favorite soccer player.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!