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Chivas USA 2012 Player Postmortem: Cesar Romero

Romero was a player folks could really root for. But did he deliver the goods?

No joke: Romero worked hard, but seldom saw the field in 2012.
No joke: Romero worked hard, but seldom saw the field in 2012.
Kevin Casey

Would it be accurate to describe the signing of Cesar Romero as an attempt at Jorge Villafana 2.0? I don't mean in the literal sense, as Romero is older than Sueño and didn't gain his way onto the roster by winning a reality show. But when people talk about how Chivas USA has no Mexicans or no Latinos (these are two separate schools of thought), players like Romero and Villafana, as young Mexican Americans who reach MLS by unconventional means, rather check the boxes espoused by the owners in forming this team.

Romero was signed after trialing in the preseason. After bouncing around the lower leagues in Mexico and indoor soccer, his goalscoring reputation preceded him, but it was obviously unclear if he could make the leap to MLS. Although he didn't get a great deal of playing time in 2012, Romero was pretty raw on the field and has a skillset that is somewhat unorthodox. His corner kick delivery was probably the best on the team, which means that he could get the ball in a decent position for a scoring chance more often than anybody. The problem is that the plethora of other players who took corners (Nick LaBrocca, Blair Gavin, Ryan Smith, Miller Bolanos) were often very bad at corner kick delivery, and Romero was seldom on the field to actually take corners.

On a broadcast of one game this season, where Romero got a rare start, Eric Wynalda identified the forward as essentially a "tweener" who was willing to pop up and do something exciting every so often. I think the observation was apt, as Romero performed better in a withdrawn position or even in the midfield than any other forward asked to do that by Robin Fraser this season. Romero may have been billed as a forward, but he is perhaps a player who could see his position change over the course of his career.

Here are Romero's statistics for 2012 with the Goats:

Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 12 4 392 0 1 5 0 1 0
U.S. Open Cup 2 1 71 2 0 3 3 0 0
Total 14 5 463 2 1 8 3 1 0

So Romero didn't see a lot of time in 2012, and he mostly came off the bench this season. I think his speed and again, willingness to make speculative runs, to dribble the ball through a few defenders, to hustle for the rare chance meant he was a pretty good sub option on a pretty bad team. The problem was that he couldn't ever get the ball in the net. He did score against the Portland Timbers in the preseason, and he obviously had two in a very short amount of time in USOC play (one a game winner), but like far too many players, he never looked like a guy who could be counted on to score.

So, was the Sueño 2.0 experiment worthwhile? Based on the body of work, probably not. He made the absolute league minimum, at $33,750, meaning that the actual finances aren't really a sticking point. But Romero's rawness means that in order for him to stick with an MLS club, he would need to really work his tail off in the offseason and preseason and really try and hone his skills. He can remain a "tweener," but he's not going to really succeed in the league without finding a skill or two (scoring, set piece delivery, super sub, etc.) to build his game around.


Scoring Threat: D

As a starter, Romero attempted five shots, all of which were off-target. Though Romero played in 12 games, 70 percent of his time on the field (290 of 392 minutes) were in his four starts. That was probably one reason he only played five minutes after July. Despite his lack of minutes, he tied for third on the team in offside, so there's that.

Playmaker (Passing/Creativity): C

Romero got his chance on corner kicks and set pieces and provided decent-to-good corners. Romero is top among all Chivas USA forwards in number of crosses. He had as many successful crosses on the year (7) as Juan Agudelo, Juan Pablo Angel, Casey Townsend, and Alejandro Moreno combined. This all actually suggests that Romero is miscast as a striker. In reality, it's Romero's background in indoor soccer that's coming through. The rapid pace of the indoor game belies a player with an impromptu recklessness instead of one looking to hold up the ball and wait for the play to develop.

Defensive: C

You want your forwards to be your first line of defense. Meaning: showing aggressiveness and trying to win the ball. Romero did make six tackles on the season but, again, the recklessness showed through, earning him nine fouls and a yellow card.

- Matthew Hoffman

GM's Evaluation:

Romero is another one of those guys where I don't think there was much to evaluate. His speed and ability to get the ball impressed me. However, he was used mostly as a super sub this season, and didn't really make a mark on the team. When I sat down to write this, I was really drawing a blank with him. I remember flashes of good things, but overall, couldn't really think of anything great from him. One thing that really affected his output was the constant rotations of the forwards we saw from the coaching staff - of course it went against all players in the position, but it really hindered Romero's ability to claim a starting position. This could also be partially his fault, for not putting in performances that won the coaching staff over week in and week out, but we all rolled our eyes many times and screamed at some of those starting lineups.

I just wonder what could have been with him (and others, as I will mention in my evaluations later) had he gotten more minutes. Nonetheless, I'm not sure I see him staying. I don't think he was one of the guys that really proved the team has a reason to keep him. There also is no reason to let him go. You always need guys to come on as super subs, run at tired defenses, and open up holes for guys to score. I can see Romero being that person.

- Rachna Kapur

What do you think? Leave a comment below!