Today, we are concluding this week's midseason report card for Chivas USA's on-field participants. In case you missed it, Tuesday we evaluated the goalkeepers, Wednesday we looked at the defenders, and yesterday was the midfielders' turn. Today, the spotlight is on the forwards, the most glamorous of the bunch. Of course, few would say that about the Goats forwards. In general, forwards are scrutinized more on their scoring records than any other position. Chivas' strikers have shown good energy and effort, but the goals haven't been there as a unit as much as one might expect. Perhaps a new signing or two will reinvigorate this position? Or maybe some of these guys will step up their game in the second half? We can't wait to find out.
Once again, a reminder of Chivas' record at the moment: 19 MLS games (1 U.S. Open Cup Qualifier): 22 points (5-7-7) (0-1-0 in USOC); 6th in Western Conference, 10th place overall.
Marcos Mondaini: (14 games started/played, 3 goals, 0 assists) Well, Marcos won't be winning any popularity contests around the league after his ankle-annihilating tackle of Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales and subsequent 4 game suspension. But he has been Chivas' best forward in the first half by a considerable distance. In fact, with Alejandro Moreno's extended absence on international duty, Robin Fraser's shift of Mondaini to the front line from the midfield has worked wonders.
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Since he has returned from suspension in June, Mondaini looks to be more motivated and his play has improved. Up top, he is not expected to make any tackles, which is probably for the best for all parties, and he has been a handful for defenses in playing closer to goal. I also think he has a lot of room to grow, as it is just his first season in MLS, and perhaps Chivas USA will be a home for him in his career.
Mondaini's midseason grade: B
Justin Braun: (18 games played, 14 started, 4 goals, 3 assists) The veteran of the forward corps is having a mixed bag of a season so far. He started the year out of position on the right wing, which made little sense to most fans, before Fraser abandoned that plan and benched him for a few weeks. Through all of that, credit him for being a professional and never wavering in his effort. Then, just when nobody expected it, he scored a hat trick against New York Red Bulls on May 15, demonstrating his long-range abilities as well as his poaching skills. But although he puts in a hard-working shift every game, he has only scored one goal since then. Justin can do better than that, and I expect improvement beyond his 9 goal season in 2010. He is roughly on pace for that, but he is working hard enough, chipping in assists when his team needs it, that he needs to be finishing the chances more too. It may sound harsh, but that's only because we love 'Braunzilla' in Chivatown and we want him to succeed.
Braun's midseason grade: C+
Alejandro Moreno: (11 games started and played, 3 goals, 2 assists) Perhaps some of the reason behind Braun's troubles comes from the fact that Moreno plays essentially the same role. Moreno is a veteran MLS support striker, and his ability to win balls, draw fouls, and score goals has been really helpful for Chivas. His experience around the league has also been helpful, and Robin Fraser clearly likes him. He really ought to score more goals as well, but he's given more of a pass for his advancing age (32) and long absence from the team as he is playing with Venezuela in the Copa America. The team collectively plays a little better when he's on the field, but he is not scaring anybody with his goalscoring prowess, and that is worrisome. Hopefully he can pick it up in the second half.
Moreno's midseason grade: C+
Victor Estupinan: (7 games played, 2 started, 0 goals or assists) The Ecuadorean did himself no favors when he proclaimed he would score 30 goals this season after being selected by Chivas in this year's MLS SuperDraft. Unlike his compatriot and fellow draftee Joao Plata (with Toronto FC) playing time and goals have been hard to come by for Estupinan. He has mostly been confined to limited duty at the end of games, as the second or third substitute, and a blatant dive in the box against Vancouver on June 1 that earned him a yellow card left some wondering if it his career with Chivas was over before it began. But signs are positive recently, and a start against San Jose on July 6 demonstrated his skill and speed. Maybe he just needed an adjustment period. It is still unclear if he will see much more playing time in the second half, but I hope he gets a shot, because he looks like he might be able to get his act together.
Estupinan's midseason grade: C-
Tristan Bowen: (3 games played, 0 starts, goals or assists) The LA Galaxy academy product has only played 60 minutes this season, as he has battled an ankle injury, so it isn't reasonable to scrutinize him too much. He is only 20 years old, and is reputed to have blazing speed, but he's seen so little action on the field that we have no idea if he can contribute in the second half or not. Right now, it's wait and see.
Bowen's midseason grade: Incomplete
Chris Cortez: (5 games played, 0 starts, goals or assists) The academy product got the call up in May, and has five substitute appearances so far. Since he has played so little, it isn't fair to give him a grade, but this season will most likely represent an adjustment period for the 22 year old. He is big, so his size is a plus as a target, especially at the end of games, but his touch hasn't been as refined so far. Hopefully he gets his sea legs under him, and grows as a professional for the rest of the season.
Cortez's midseason grade: Incomplete
How do you rate the forwards? Leave a comment below!