Today's season review represents a pretty good story in 2011. Ante Jazic is a veteran defender, at 35, and has enjoyed a career throughout Europe as well as MLS. He came to Chivas USA in 2009, and enjoyed his best season in MLS in 2011. Although Chivas had a variety of problems defensively with injuries and consistency, he was a fixture when he wasn't suffering from injury himself. He ranked fourth on the team in minutes played (2,468), and made 28 appearances, all starts.
He really earned the trust of Chivas coach Robin Fraser, and he seemed to thrive under Fraser's possession-based system. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was that Jazic led the team in assists in 2011, with seven. Those seven assists more than doubled his MLS career total, which now stands at 12. As a left back who was able to make crosses and lob passes into the box to the forwards, he created an attacking element for the Goats from the back that was often sorely needed. By all accounts, it was a career year, and being recently re-signed is a good sign for Chivas' defensive stability in 2012.
Jazic should be slated to be the starting left back again in 2012, and James Riley should be the new right back. Heath Pearce should probably stay in central defense, and that leaves a center back slot that could use an upgrade. While I think David Junior Lopes has the potential to become a good center back, I would like to see another strong center back signed or drafted so that the defense can really be shored up for 2012. It seems that this is a backline that can improve tremendously in Fraser's second season, and with Dan Kennedy in goal, the objective will be to have a very strong defense that will be hard to unlock.
Jazic's resurgence even extended to the international stage. He was called into the Canadian national team this fall, and participated in the first stage of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, helping Canada advance to the next stage. Although he wasn't called up to the 2011 Gold Cup, his performance in 2011 indicate Canada's national team coach Stephen Hart was paying attention and gave him a call-up despite his age. As a result, Jazic looks like he is enjoying an Indian summer in his career.
The question moving into 2012 is if Jazic can perform as well on the field in 2011 and what he does off it. Since he probably doesn't have many years ahead of him to play, let's see if he can leave it all on the field in the time he has left. Additionally, let's hope that he is able to mentor young players on the squad, particularly the young defenders. Chivas had a real split between youth and age in 2011, and if the front office can modulate the age gap and help the young players gain experience it should help the club perform better. Jazic was a dark horse team MVP candidate in 2011. Can he replicate that form for 2012? For Chivas' playoff hopes, let's all hope he can.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!