In 2011, Chivas USA had two breakout players. In addition to goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, midfielder Nick LaBrocca became a complete surprise as far as his impact after being traded from Toronto in exchange for Alan Gordon. LaBrocca was named to the 2011 MLS All-Star team, and he was the person who jumpstarted the Goats' attack. As a defensive-minded midfielder who stepped into a vacuum to provide an attacking presence in the middle of the park for his new club, it seemed Chivas had one of the building blocks for the next phase in its history, one that would hopefully be better than what came before.
In 2012, the situation has been markedly different. The front office bought a bunch of wingers and combo forward/midfielders, and after leaking goals in the preseason, it seemed like LaBrocca would need to move back and take care of one of the pressing issues, which was defense.
With the Goats having the worst scoring offense in the league, there have been persistent calls for LaBrocca to move back into a more advanced role, especially with Shalrie Joseph joining the team.
But despite those calls, LaBrocca hasn't performed consistently in the attack, as far as providing goals anyway, for more than a year. Read on to find out the numbers.By the time LaBrocca played in the All-Star game last year, he had scored six goals and notched three assists. He scored eight goals and six assists in total in 2011, so those pre-All-Star game numbers represented 75 percent of his goals and 50 percent of his assists for the season.
Since the All-Star game at the end of July 2011, LaBrocca has scored a total of three goals and three assists in league play. That pace in a calendar year fits his previous pattern in his career. Between 2008, when he became a regular starter and 2010, LaBrocca scored a total of five goals and six assists. The reality is that it looks like 2011 was an aberration, a career year for LaBrocca.
But again, it looks like the first 60 percent of 2011 was LaBrocca's time. Anybody who watched him game in and game out after the All-Star break last season saw that he often looked tired, was marked much more closely than earlier in the season, and could not put the team on his back like he had done so many times before that year. He slumped his way out of last season, and there were questions about what his form would look like heading into 2012.
Again, it is somewhat unfair to expect the same scoring load for him in 2012 because he's been tasked with being more of a defensive midfielder. But the expectation that if LaBrocca plays in a more advanced role, the goals will flow freely, does not appear to be a safe bet. Could he help the attack? Yes, of course. But he's unlikely to go on a scoring tear himself, and it is unclear if he can handle the additional attention from opponents if he does switch to a more offensive role.
Nick's got just one goal this season and no assists. He could certainly step up and help Chivas try and stop the recent slide, but he's unlikely to be Chivas' savior two years in a row.
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