It was little surprise that a player like Josue Soto caught Chivas USA's eye prior to the 2013 season. Born in the U.S. but raised in Mexico, familiar with the MLS set-up from his time as a Homegrown player with the Houston Dynamo but out of contract, Soto came to the Goats during the preseason and earned a deal.
He ended up playing a fair amount on the team in 2013, finishing 13th in league minutes played.
But how did he play? Well, I think the 24-year-old hustled, and certainly had good moments, but I'm not sure if he really showed he absolutely needs to be at an MLS level.
Let's start with his position. Most of the time, Soto played as a left-sided wingback or a left back, depending on the system implemented. Apparently, he had previous experience playing a defensive position, although it appears his natural position is in the midfield. Fine, many full backs are converted to that position.
I think in theory, playing Soto as a wingback makes sense, as he can play a two-way game and help the defense when they needed it. But since Chelís' three-man defense collapsed after the first month of the season, we don't know if better personnel would have made the system possible, or if the system itself just has no place in MLS. For what it's worth, I think a defense with three players could work with enough talent and enough tactical discipline (Chivas had neither of those attributes).
Soto actually played the bulk of his minutes under Jose Luis Real, and played frequently as a left back, on a team with no true left back. That he could not hold on to the spot late in the season indicates that he wasn't the answer at that position, even on a temporary basis.
Here's what I don't understand about Soto: When he played with the reserves, he had a rocket of a shot, both in open play and on set pieces. But since he was playing defense most of the time, he didn't get many shots at all with the first team. But he had a knack for hitting shots from 35 yards in training and reserve games, just completely smashing the ball. For a team that was so poor at scoring, why would the coaches not give him a shot further forward and let him take more set pieces? I do remember Soto taking a few free kicks during the season in league games, but Edgar Mejia was basically the anointed set piece taker, and with a couple early exceptions, he was no great shakes at it. Why prevent Soto from giving the team something that nobody else on the roster could provide?
These were Soto's statistics for 2013:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||18||12||1,158||0||0||3||3||2||1|
|U.S. Open Cup||2||2||73||0||0||0||0||1||0|
Soto had some memorable moments in 2013 on the field. He got a full foot to the chest from Sean Franklin in the first SuperClasico of the season, although Franklin didn't see the red card he should have.
And he pushed a referee and was red carded in the messy loss to the Philadelphia Union. Chivas were hard done by the ref's incorrect back pass call, and Soto was among the players to argue with the decision. Though I was sure he would be suspended, he wasn't, so either the MLS Disciplinary Committee couldn't unanimously agree he should get more punishment, or they weren't paying attention. Still, though it was a dumb red card to get, I don't think it casts a pall over his season or anything. It appeared to be a one-time mistake.
Above all, how was Soto's year with Chivas? I'm sure the turmoil probably diminished his contributions like it did just about everybody's. But while he obviously shows promise, so much so that two MLS teams have signed him, I don't think he's much more than a utility player at this point. Every team needs those guys, but Chivas need talent first, then they can worry about supplementing with players who'll chip in any way they can.
Soto's contract option was declined following the season, as part of the group of 10 players cut loose. With three years of MLS experience, he went into the MLS Re-Entry draft pool, but was not selected. That means he is a free agent in MLS. Since he was on the "developmental" minimum salary, the absolute lowest amount an MLS player can make at $35,125, I think that means Chivas won't be renegotiating with him and signing him again for 2014.
The question is where he goes next. While an MLS team could certainly sign him, I think there's a solid chance he'll end up in the NASL. He went on loan to the San Antonio Scorpions in 2012, and played regular minutes with them, even scoring some goals. If he can join back up with them, or another NASL team, he should be able to get game time and probably contribute more than in MLS.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!