Every so often, I'm tempted to write about revised perceptions of Chivas USA's player personnel moves of the last couple years. Although I think I am critical of the team on a regular basis, I also feel the need to give credit where it's due, and I think the record needs to be set straight.
The standard narrative for Chivas USA heading into the season was that the front office had no idea what they were doing, they got rid of players for nothing, and they were going to crash and burn. Even if some of those things are true (I'll leave it to you to decide which) so far this season, it looks like the unorthodox formula has been working. Will it work all season? Far too early to tell, but it has at least given folks pause.
But what's interesting is the number of players the former regime got rid of or passed on and got slammed at the time for, and how many of those moves have panned out. This isn't something that has sprung up since Chelís arrived (who, by the way, doesn't seem to be the main voice on player personnel decisions anyway) but spans to the Robin Fraser-Jose Domene era.
Here are some of the examples I'm talking about:
Freddy Adu: Chivas had him if they wanted him, since they were in pole position in the Allocation Order when Adu returned to MLS. Although the full details have never come out, it appears the move was set to happen until a last minute order to pass was issued, perhaps from the owners. After a season and a half of indifferent play and conflicts with coaches, Adu was shipped out to Bahia in the Brazilian Serie A this week. The Union didn't want him, and indications are that no other team in MLS was willing to pony up the price tag (not to mention potential trade assets) to get Adu, indicating the degree to which his stock has dropped in the league.
Seems like Chivas dodged a bullet, right? Well, he's not the only one:
Benny Feilhaber: Prior to Adu becoming available in 2011 through the Allocation Order, Chivas had the option to grab Feilhaber through the same mechanism that year, and passed on him as well. In the end, the New England Revolution picked up Feilhaber, and, stop me if you have heard this before, after a season and a half of indifferent play and conflicts with coaches, Feilhaber was traded to Sporting Kansas City last offseason. That Feilhaber went to another team in MLS, and that the team that obtained him is considered to be one of the better teams in the league with one of the better front offices, means that Feilhaber's stock didn't drop nearly as much as Adu's. But it cannot be denied that Feilhaber has been more trouble than his production so far is worth, and while he could end up clicking for SKC by the end of this season, he hasn't looked great for them so far, either. He frequently had hissy fits on the field when playing for the Revs, either because he was mad at the refs or his bad teammates, but based on how Chivas played in 2011-12, he would have surely had plenty with the Goats as well.
Is that it? Oh no, there are plenty of other moves involving guys who actually played for the team:
Zarek Valentin: Remember when everybody thought Chivas were morons for leaving Valentin exposed in the Expansion Draft a couple years back? The Montreal Impact promptly took him, and folks shook their heads at the stupidities of the Goats for letting a promising young defender go for nothing. Since going to Montreal, Valentin has only played 15 league games (remember, he played 25 his rookie year with Chivas), hasn't played since July 2012 (and that's under two different Impact head coaches), and is now being loaned out to the Norwegian second division. Partially, the deal is meant to give him some experience, but it is also plainly a move to ship him out of town in order to relieve cap and roster space and bring in another player. I don't know, that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement by his second team to me, does it?
Justin Braun: Ok, this one hurts more, since Braun had some really good times with Chivas. It would appear that he probably also looks back on his time with Chivas as the highlight of his career so far, because since he got traded during Montreal's Expansion Draft to the Impact, he's been on three teams (Montreal, Real Salt Lake, and now Toronto FC) and has played a total of 14 games (none so far in 2013) with no goals and one assist. He should see some time eventually, but it could be awhile, since Robert Earnshaw appears to have the position locked up for now, with John Bostock heavily involved in the attack, and Danny Koevermans possibly coming back to get right back into the mix. Like Feilhaber, Braun could find a run of form and really get back on track, but the situation looks bad. But you know, Chivas were totally stupid to get rid of him and all.
Casey Townsend: And this one is really speculative at the moment, since he's only just begun his second season, but Chivas were widely ripped for essentially giving Townsend away in the preseason to D.C. United. Some people focused on what Chivas got in return (pretty much nothing), while others honed in on his draft position and considerable potential. I think there's definite merit in the former, but on the latter count, United themselves dealt a blow recently, as the club loaned out Townsend to their USL affiliate Richmond Kickers last week. Like Valentin's loan, this spell could give Townsend the time to develop away from the spotlight for a little while, and then come back to MLS triumphant. Still, I wouldn't necessarily say that Chivas made a fatal mistake based on the evidence at this point.
Nick LaBrocca: Here's another one that is a little early to tell, but there's already evidence in Chivas' favor. I argued after last season that LaBrocca was Chivas' best trade chip (in that he was the most overvalued player on the team), and ultimately, the trade with the Colorado Rapids for him was the best one Chivas did during the offseason (since they got a real, live player, and an MLS veteran at that, in Eric Avila). The season is young, but LaBrocca has only played in two games so far for the Rapids, both appearances off the bench, and coach Oscar Pareja seems to regard LaBrocca as nothing more than depth at the moment. And Colorado are racked by injuries and Colorado currently sits in 8th place. Like other guys on this list, he still has time to come good, but you know, just because a guy isn't Latino doesn't mean the trade wasn't a good soccer move for the team.
Blair Gavin: I don't know if many people were slamming the Shalrie Joseph trade that sent Blair Gavin to the New England Revolution, since Gavin didn't look very good last season. Ultimately, Joseph was a disaster, and even though Chivas traded him away, they still have to pay a substantial portion of his salary this season. Gavin, however, is currently out of MLS altogether. Whether he is trying to find a situation with a club in the league or perhaps an NASL or USL team is unclear, but it seems like losing him didn't hurt Chivas.
Of course, there are many caveats to the players listed above. In addition to the fact that some of these players can still prove Chivas wrong, there are legitimate arguments to be made that Chivas have been horrible in not only their draft strategy (since the only SuperDraft pick on their roster right now is the 2013 pick, Carlos Alvarez), but also their ability to leverage value from players they didn't want. For example, they could have grabbed Adu or Feilhaber and flipped them for another player or Allocation money, but instead, they decided to pass and get no value at all. Additionally, their trades last offseason (with the exception of LaBrocca-Avila) were uniformly bad, as the team seemed to have no interest in getting any kind of value where they could have certainly got some. Certainly, the club's strategy has not been perfect.
Still, before dismissing a Chivas USA move out of hand, it is worthwhile to look at their track record, and see that many players they have gotten rid of have not been the horrible moves they were originally mooted to be.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!