If you missed the news from earlier this week, Jorge Flores is now Jorge Villafaña. The Chivas USA midfielder enjoyed a season that was his best yet as a professional, but after a strong first half, he tailed off like many of his teammates. Still, Sueño's 2011 represents another year in the development of a real life invincible, complete with a year-end call up to the United States' Men's National Team U23 training camp this month.
Did you know that Jorge Villafana is now the longest-tenured Chivas USA player? Yes, the 22-year old is the player who has spent the most time with the Goats. Now, MLS has a lot of turnover, but that is still astounding, isn't it? He signed in the middle of 2007 and has played a total of 52 league games, scoring five goals and one assist while splitting time between midfield and full back. In 2011, new coach Robin Fraser really gave Villafaña a regular spot to start the season. Playing a total of 25 matches (24 starts) and keeping him in midfield gave the young veteran a chance to really prove himself.Villafaña was a fixture on the left of midfield, and he had several strong matches that demonstrated his skill early in the season when his teammates could not gel as a unit. In particular, in the first half on May 21 against the LA Galaxy, he was the best attacking player on the team. Unfortunately, he couldn't make a breakthrough to get a goal against the local rivals, something that was surely a tall task but indicated a consistent issue for Villafaña.
On one hand, Villafaña was able to distribute the ball from the wing well, made good runs into the box, and was willing to take defenders on. All of that demonstrated growth in his game. However, he only provided one assist on the year, which is less than one would expect from a guy who played so many minutes (1,793) on the wing. Furthermore, he scored a very good goal, against the Columbus Crew on May 28, but that was the only time he converted on goal for the season. The problem was that he had a good half-dozen clear chances on goal over the year, where he had a breakaway, but only scored once. Some of those breakaways had tricky shots, but a better scorer would have made more of those chances. And considering the number of draws and losses on the season, a goal or three might have made a major difference for the team's position in the standings.
Villafaña was a fixture in the lineup for most of the season, but following the signing of Laurent Courtois at the beginning of August he entered a timeshare at left wing. In fact, he only played in three of the final nine matches, and didn't see any time in the last four games. Considering he was dropped at the end of the year, it looked like Chivas were possibly moving on. That seemed to be confirmed with the arrival of winger Ryan Smith in a trade from Sporting Kansas City on November 21. But the Chivas front office gave a mixed message by keeping Villafaña protected from the Expansion Draft. He is an affordable player, making just $60,000 in base salary in 2011, but it seems he could get quite buried on the depth chart unless he develops more offensive consistency.
2011 showed his growth, but hopefully greater improvement in 2012 is in the cards for Villafaña. Can Sueño keep the dream alive next year? We'll have to wait and see.
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