Chivas USA have just under two months to build their team ahead of the 2014 season, and the prep work begins in earnest this week with the MLS SuperDraft, which begins Thursday. The Goats have three picks, and a lot of holes to fill.
So let's go through the various needs Chivas have, and figure out where the team may opt to go in the SuperDraft this year...
First, let's break down the contents of the roster by position. I'm using the list of players on the team's official website as reference:
Goalkeeper (2): Dan Kennedy, Tim Melia
Defender (4): Carlos Bocanegra, Bobby Burling, Carlos Borja, Andrew Jean-Baptiste
Midfielder (7): Carlos Alvarez, Eric Avila, Carlo Chueca, Marky Delgado, Gabriel Farfan, Oswaldo Minda, Mauro Rosales
Forward (3): Erick Torres, Bryan de la Fuente, Matthew Fondy
Based on this list, the team has 17 players at present. Though apparently there isn't a rule dictating a minimum number of players, the team can't even field a full 18, so there will definitely be additions. And overall, the team can add up 13 players, as the maximum roster amount is 30 per club.
Chivas have three picks, in the second, third, and fourth rounds, respectively. They likely won't be required to offer a contract to any of those picks unless they want to. They may just draft the best player available regardless of position and see how things shake out in training camp.
But let's see what needs are most critical:
1. Full back
The Goats only have four defenders on the roster, and only one of them, Borja, has played full back, and the coaches didn't even play him there much in 2013. Assuming Wilmer Cabrera doesn't return to a three-man backline that wasn't successful in 2013 for the Goats, Chivas need full backs more than anything else heading into the season. Seriously, they need guys on both sides, ASAP.
There aren't a ton of full back options heading into the draft, but Chivas ought to keep an eye on any that remain on the board past the first round. I am hoping the team targets Marco Franco, a right back who played on Chivas USA's U-23 team last year, but he's having a good combine so far, and that could mean he'll be taken before Chivas' first pick.
Among other full back prospects is right back Eric Miller, from Creighton University, who signed a Generation adidas deal and is likely not going to be around at #20 (though there usually is one GA player who falls significantly in each draft). Ben Sweat is the highest ranked left back, out of South Florida, but didn't impress in the first day of the combine. For Chivas' sake, that might be to their benefit if he slips.
2. Center back
According to at least one projection, the class of central defenders is the strength of this year's draft. Not coincidentally, Chivas could use more center backs, as they only have 3-4 (depending on where Borja is played this year), and Bocanegra is not a young pup. Plus, we've seen that center backs have been able to make the leap from the draft to meaningful minutes faster than just about any position the past few years around the league.
Of course, unless Chivas trade up in the draft this year, they are going to miss out on the top CB prospects, guys like Steve Birnbaum and Christian Dean. Although of course not every central defender in the draft class will pan out, the depth means there's a solid shot Chivas can find a decent MLS player even from the second round. Somebody like Jimmy Ockford of Louisville, Kevin Cope of Michigan State, or Joe Sofia of UCLA could be in the Goats' range and could be available for selection if they caught the scouting staff's eye.
In recent seasons, Chivas have been bad at defending, and they've also been bad at scoring. They also only have three forwards, and if Cabrera wants to play a 4-3-3 (it's unclear, though certainly possible) they'll need a heap more.
Though I think history has shown there is less risk in drafting defenders in MLS, quality forwards can also be found if the right player is chosen. Strikers who may be available to Chivas include the fantastically named Mamadou Doudou Diouf out of UConn, Reinaldo Brenes from Akron, and Tesho Akindele from D-II Colorado School of Mines.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!