In a strange season, Tristan Bowen had perhaps the strangest of all Chivas USA players in 2012. Spending the first several months of the season on his year-long loan in the Belgian second division, it initially appeared that Bowen may stay another year or be sold on, considering the fact that he was almost never discussed publicly early in the season.
As it happened, Bowen ended his loan spell on a pretty decent note, scoring three goals with K.S.V. Roeselare. Initial reports from Chivas in May when Bowen returned was that he might be in the team's plans in 2012, but they would need to evaluate him. He didn't play in June, or in July...and it seemed like Robin Fraser had no need for him. During that time, Bowen was on the weekly injury report with an ankle problem, something that has been a consistent issue for him in his very short stint with Chivas. So it seemed like Bowen wasn't going to make an appearance for the Goats in 2012.
Then came August 18, when Chivas played the Colorado Rapids on the road. Coming on in the 61st minute for his 2012 MLS debut, Bowen was electrifying, giving the Rapids defense fits and looking instantly like the most dangerous player on the field. He ended up sending the cross over to Juan Pablo Angel for the equalizer in that 1-1 result. It was a terrific performance, and it seemed Bowen had learned the skills in Belgium to really bring some great contributions to Chivas.
Bowen played in the next four games following that Rapids match, starting three. He didn't go 90 minutes in any of those appearances, but his skills as a winger were exciting, and he often looked like Chivas' sharpest attacker in his appearances. He got another assist in his second game, against the Seattle Sounders, but it was the 6-2 thrashing. In all, Bowen played in every match between August 18 and September 8, and then he never saw another minute in the final eight games of the season.
Why? Why hold Bowen out all those months, then play him five games in a row, where he looked good, and then bury him on the bench once and for all? Certainly, Chivas' record was poor in those five games, where they went 0-3-2. But the attack was terrible all season, and in the games Bowen featured, the team scored seven goals, which was a full 29 percent of the team's total for 2012, in just 14 percent of the season's games. Was it a coincidence that the team scored more in that stretch? Probably not. So why pull a player who looked good and who was helping to do something right for the team?
In the end, Bowen was probably collateral damage for a late-season collapse that pretty much sunk everybody involved with the team. It leaves questions about whether the 21-year old will return in 2013. The biggest mark against him is his salary, which was $100,000 in base salary and $131,363.63 in guaranteed compensation in 2012. As the first home grown signing in MLS, Bowen evidently benefits from the generosity of the LA Galaxy for signing him to such a large contract. In contrast, Juan Agudelo made $70,000 in base salary ($100,000 guaranteed) from his home grown contract from the New York Red Bulls, and Marky Delgado made $44,000 base salary ($46,500 guaranteed) as Chivas' home grown signing this year.
Needless to say, paying a player as much as Bowen was to sit on the bench is absolutely crazy. If the next coach wants to include Bowen in his plans next season, great. If not, Bowen, despite all the promise, needs to be dropped one way or another. He still looks like he could be a very good player, but his salary and persistent ankle injuries mean he may not be worth waiting to see what will happen. Still, if he turns into a good player elsewhere, it won't be much of a surprise.
Here are Bowen's statistics this season with Chivas:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||5||3||248||0||2||7||3||0||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Of three Chivas USA players put out on loan in 2011, Tristan Bowen is the only one who remained with Chivas this year. I'm hopeful that this does not spell the end of the practice of Chivas loaning players to clubs, both domestically and abroad. Players placed on loan who get first team minutes are going to get more playing time against tighter competition than they ever will playing in the Reserves league, all of which (theoretically) leads to a better developed, more polished professional player.
The skills that Bowen honed abroad served to help Chivas' ailing attack in 2012. This was apparent instantly as Bowen contributed assists in each of his first two games with Chivas.
The three games Bowen started were--statistically--the three finest offensive performances by any Chivas side this year. In no three game set did the team have score more goals (5), take more shots (49), or force more saves (average of seven shots on goal). When you compare Bowen's starts to the 29 games he did not make an appearance (see table) you get to wonder why we didn't see more of the 21-year-old San Fernando Valley native.
|Goals Allowed||Goals Scored||Attempts on Goal||Shots on Target||Shots off Target||Total Shots|
|Avg. w/o Bowen||0.55||11.21||3.34||4.83||8.17|
Bowen's influence could be inflated; he never played a full game. Outside of a right ankle sprain suffered in July, Bowen seemed to stay healthy and off the injury report.
Scoring Threat: B
It might just be a matter of deployment, but Bowen doesn't seem to have the make of a pure No. 9 striker. Instead Bowen has used the skills he does possess to create openings for teammates and hope they can execute.
Playmaker (Passing/Creative): A
In his limited time on the field, Bowen was as active as anyone as forcing the defense to react and then attacking or setting up a teammate for an attack.
Bowen is victim of both a small sample size and not getting any playing time until the wheels were already falling off. It would be unfair to blame the defensive deficiencies on Bowen. After all, they were losing routinely by four goals before and after his stint with the first unit. If he were a forward and not carrying the defensive duties of a midfielder, he would fare better. As talented as he is on offense, he doesn't appear to be a two-way player yet.
- Matthew Hoffman
I think we were all wondering just what Bowen would bring to the table when he came back from loan. We barely saw much of him in 2011 when we got him from the Galaxy, and only knew of his promise. There was also some concern that being on loan in the second division in Belgium wasn't going to do much help. However, I was really impressed with him from the minute he stepped onto the field. I think he brought an offensive threat that the team was seriously lacking during the summer. He helped create chances and linked up extremely well with Juan Agudelo and Casey Townsend. I think he didn't get enough time on the field, and I truly hope he's someone that stays on for next season.
- Rachna Kapur
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