Every year there's at least a player or two who sits on Chivas USA's roster but never actually sees competitive minutes with the first team. That's a feature of just about every soccer team, really.
As we do every year, we're going to kick off the annual Player Postmortems by discussing those who didn't get to play.
In 2014, CUSA had eight players technically around in preseason or later who didn't ever play for the team.
Two of those players, Gabriel Farfan and Jose Correa, were a little different from the rest, as both were on loan at least part of the season. In the case of Farfan, his initial loan spell with Liga MX side Chiapas FC became a permanent deal, and while Chiapas look like they will make the Liguilla this season, Farfan has made only two 2014 Apertura appearances, and has reportedly played primarily with the U-20 side (he's 26). Still, he reached his dream of playing in Liga MX, and is getting more game action than twin brother Michael, who got cut by Cruz Azul earlier this year.
In Correa's case, a successful loan stint with Argentine club Gimnasia was punctuated by a torn ACL in February that was reportedly viscerally sickening to listen to. Staying in Argentina until his loan was up in the summer, Correa returned to Chivas to continue his rehab, but never got back in the mix with the Goats in 2014, for obvious reasons.
The situation of the other six players who didn't feature is a pretty illuminating look into a team going through yet another rebuilding project, with one effort arrested as the next (and subsequently final one) took place.
First, let's spare a thought for Fejiro Okiomah, a defender whose signing was announced in January and who was cut at the start of March, so he had maybe one of the briefest tenures ever for an MLS player. Clearly, he was signed by the Jorge Vergara-era CUSA regime, off the back of a trial that included the postseason friendly against FC Tucson in 2013, and when the Nelson Rodriguez-era CUSA regime came in, Wilmer Cabrera decided he didn't need Okiomah around. What a tough blow for a player. However, perhaps on the bright side he found a new team relatively quickly, as he took up with expansion NASL side Indy Eleven (where he joined former Chivas USA loanee Jaime Frias and former CUSA Academy product Ben Spencer). At the very least, he actually played minutes as a pro in 2014, it was just never with Chivas USA.
Along with Okiomah is another player from that fall 2013 trial, and another defender, Andrew Ribeiro. The Wisconsin native made it a bit longer than his former teammate, but not by much, as he was cut in April. Another player who did not seem to be in Cabrera's plans, Ribeiro got some Reserve League minutes, but after leaving the Goats, he trialled with and eventually signed with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in USL PRO, making seven appearances this season for the Pennsylvania side.
Another player dropped around the same point in the season had far more history with the team. Carlos Borja was on his third tour with Chivas USA in 2013, but did not make Cabrera's cut, and was waived in late March. The defender saw more action in 2013 than ever before, but did not see any competitive minutes this season. It's unclear what the 26-year-old is up to these days, as it does not appear he found a club this year after leaving the Goats.
Among the players who didn't see action in 2014 who left the team early, no situation was weirder than Lyle Martin's. Despite his off-field presence around the team in preseason and in the opening weeks of the season, the 29-year-old was never announced by the club as a signing, and no explanation was given as to why that wasn't announced when the team confirmed he was a member of the team in April. Prior to that, he wasn't on the player page or included in any team information, but the week news broke about his being on the team, he was included on the injury report.
As if that wasn't weird enough, Martin was waived at the end of May, shortly after he came off the injury report. I have no proof, but his situation sounds incredibly fishy. Yes, it's plausible that the team somehow forgot to tell everyone he was signed, and it's possible he just happened to get hurt when news emerged he was signed to the team, and it's even possible that the timing happened so that he was cut right after he got healthy. But I'm pretty skeptical about it. I don't know why they would secretly sign a player, then get rid of him only a few months later, but it's just not what pro teams do, and frankly I can't believe this whole situation wasn't a bigger deal, around Chivatown or MLS as a whole (it could represent some of the issues with transparency in the league, or with the byzantine roster rules. Or it could just be one team being incredibly weird).
So if you're still with me, there are two players left who didn't play, and both were part of the team all season. One was one of the Goats' draft picks in January, defender Michael Nwiloh. Though he looked like he had some potential when he played in the reserve league games, he never got a chance on the big stage. I suppose the situation never quite got to the point that everybody ahead of him at centerback on the depth chart went down all at once, but they picked up Jhon Kennedy Hurtado after Carlos Bocanegra went down for good, and Hurtado was very inconsistent. He probably was more ready for primetime than Nwiloh, but the rookie will have to hope a team takes a chance on him next season for him to see his full pro debut. It's kind of a bummer he was around all year and still never made it in a game, but them's the breaks, I suppose.
The final player who never featured in 2014 competitively was Homegrown striker Caleb Calvert. Thank goodness for the Homegrown game, in August, that Calvert participated in (he got the start, no less, up top against the Portland Timbers U-23s). At least there, despite playing with a bunch of guys he'd never been on a team with before, he was able to show a few glimpses of why he was signed as a 16-year-old in 2013. I still think he would have seen the field that year, if he hadn't picked up a foot injury, and that could have changed things quite a bit for this season.
Still, while I didn't expect Calvert to see a lot of time this year, I still figured he'd get on the field at some point, especially with Chivas' scoring being non-existent for much of the season when Erick Torres wasn't putting them in the net. Amid the many emotions on the final day of the season, I was willing Calvert to come off the bench and make his professional debut with his first team, but Wilmer Cabrera decided not to give the kid a reward of sorts for all his hard work. I think Calvert still has plenty of potential and will probably start to blossom at his next club, especially if he goes to USL PRO to get some seasoning (something that probably would have helped him this season too, except Chivas didn't send anybody out on loan domestically and had no USL PRO affiliate).
When I interviewed him on the final day, he remained upbeat, and at 18, still has his playing career ahead of him. But of all the players who didn't actually play in 2014, it was kind of heartbreaking to see the Caleb Calvert era pass by before he even had a chance to play for the Goats.
More Player Postmortems, examining the seasons of the players who did play, will be rolling out starting this week. In the meantime, what do you think about the players who didn't play in 2014? Leave a comment below!