As we keep reminding you, Chivas USA open training camp tomorrow, and from there it will be several short weeks before the start of the 2014 MLS season. Because of that, we've been taking stock of the Chivas roster and possible lineups in recent days.
Today, let's look at the roster position-by-position and determine where the Goats' most critical needs are:
Chivas have two 'keepers on the roster. Dan Kennedy is the starter, period. Tim Melia is his backup. Basically every team has a third goalkeeper, so Chivas will need to sign one, though this will be at the bottom of their list of priorities, methinks. I'm still not sure why they didn't just opt to bring Patrick McLain back, seeing as he had been around for two years and even got some MLS game time last year. Regardless, Chivas will need another one but here's hoping he won't need to see action in 2014.
Chivas finally signed a true left back after going an entire season without one in the squad. With Tony Lochhead aboard and the presumed starter at the moment, that leaves Marky Delgado, who played five of his 13 starts last season in that position, Gabriel Farfan, who is a midfielder and is not afraid to tell reporters that, as well as Carlos Bocanegra, who has played left back for clubs in Europe and at times for the U.S. Men's National Team. Right now, it is unclear what position Delgado will be playing in 2013, and I'd guess Boca will stay as a center back with this team. That means Lochhead has no true backup/competition. Chivas may want to go get another left back prior to the start of the season.
Chivas have the aforementioned Bocanegra, in addition to Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Bobby Burling, Andrew Ribeiro, and possibly Carlos Borja at CB. While I would not be against a talent upgrade at the position to push those who are already on the team, they may only need one more central defender at this point. Remember that fourth round draft pick Michael Nwiloh will be trialling with the team to try and earn a contract, and he could become another depth player at center back if does indeed sign a deal with the club.
Here's the biggest need on the roster at the moment. Borja is the only proper right back on the roster, though the team opted to not play him there most of the time in 2013. Behind him, there's Delgado (if he remains a defender in 2014). Besides the fact that there is literally no depth here, for all the effort that Borja possesses, I don't think he's an MLS-caliber starting right back. That means the team needs to get one. While trading for Steven Beitashour sounds like a great solution, it appears the San Jose Earthquakes right back is headed to Vancouver. Too bad, since he would be a big upgrade.
Here, I am lumping many different roles into one big catch-all because a lot depends on the preferred formation of Wilmer Cabrera. How many holding midfielders will he use? Will the team need wingers or will they be pushed up on a forward line in a 4-3-3? So it is hard to make a shopping list without knowing what will be cooked for dinner, as it were.
Still, overall the midfield positions appear to be in better shape than the rest of the roster. That doesn't mean that the decision makers shouldn't go for a talent upgrade when they have the opportunity/money to spend, but things look better overall here than elsewhere.
At holding midfielder, it appears Oswaldo Minda is sticking around, since he hasn't been kicked out yet. Despite people in Ecuador twisting my words around, I would love to have Minda back another season and hope he is fit all season and can play more games than in 2013. He is far and away the lock on this position, though frankly Farfan's best position would probably be as a holding mid, and if two are used on the field at the same time, they appear to be the best, and only real options.
The playmaker on the team is clearly Mauro Rosales. As long as he's healthy, he should be playing and (hopefully) setting up more goals for Chivas in 2014. Carlos Alvarez appears to be his understudy at that position, though I wouldn't be surprised if Alvarez is deployed in the lineup in a slightly different position as well. Carlo Chueca could also be a depth player at the playmaker role, though the low amount of minutes he's played make him something of a mystery at this point.
Chivas don't really have a left-sided midfield player bar Farfan, so he could be played out wide potentially. Bryan de la Fuente played on the left a lot last fall, so he could still have something to say about that position, though he could also get a new role under Cabrera. It would appear that getting a left-sided midfielder could be a need for this team yet.
On the right, the team looks pretty well set between Rosales (who played best on the right side with the Seattle Sounders) and Eric Avila, both of whom are likely the best attacking midfielders on the roster at the moment. If they want to add depth at this position, that makes sense, but the priority appears to absolutely be on the left right now.
Remember as well that second round draft pick Thomas McNamara will be on trial, and if he signs a contract with Chivas, could be another option in the attacking midfield positions.
Chivas have one clear starter among their strikers, and that is of course Erick Torres. Backing him up as pure central forwards is Matthew Fondy and presumably Caleb Calvert. We haven't seen Calvert play any competitive minutes yet with the first team, so we don't know yet what he could offer in 2014, while Fondy showed a lot of industry, though no goals, after signing last year. Obviously, getting an upgrade here to either partner with or spell Cubo would be wise.
The other two forwards on the roster play more of a "tweener" role. Bofo is listed as a forward, though he really plays more as a withdrawn forward or even attacking midfielder. With Rosales on the roster, I would presume Bofo will be pushed up, though he may still play behind the main striker. And as I mentioned above, de la Fuente played mostly as a left winger after joining late last season.
If Cabrera uses a formation with two strikers, he may want to get another forward to play up top alongside Torres. If he plays a three-man forward line, he may want to get another "tweener" forward to compete with the forwards and midfielders who could play up there.
Although Chivas sometimes only had one real forward available to play last season, having just five on the roster is still not a great number. Adding two more doesn't seem like a terrible idea. And remember that third round draft pick Kris Tyrpak, who has shown an ability to head the ball (something that could come in handy with Rosales around), will be on trial.
So what do you think? Leave a comment below on what roster issues you think are most pressing!