Matthew Dunn joined Chivas USA in a waiver draft in mid-April 2014, and stayed off the field for most of the season. The 20-year-old had bounced around Europe, spending time in academies with Swiss and German clubs before signing a pro deal with Serbian side OFK Beograd. Dunn couldn't establish himself there and came back to the United States to play college ball for a season with USCAA side University of Maine-Fort Kent. Chivas USA coach Wilmer Cabrera, who knew Dunn from his U.S. Men's National Team U-17 coaching days, grabbed Dunn.
While Cabrera did play quite a few of his youngsters in 2014, there were a handful who never got a look. Besides a single substitute appearance in July, it looked like Dunn would be part of that group.
And then...the central midfielder got a run late on in the year, playing in six of the last seven games of the season, and starting in four of the last five games for the Goats.
What's interesting is that central midfield was a position of relative depth for CUSA in 2014, with destroyers (Oswaldo Minda, Agustin Pelletieri), playmakers (Martin Rivero), and versatile scrappers (Nathan Sturgis, Carlos Alvarez, Marky Delgado, Thomas McNamara) — all told there were plenty of options.
Dunn played like a technical box-to-box central midfielder. Besides late addition Nigel Reo-Coker, there weren't any other box-to-box players on the roster, and the type seems to be one that isn't particularly in vogue in MLS at the moment. Of course, there are other players who fill that role, but a central midfielder who plays a true two-way game isn't particularly popular these days, much less one whose strength is his ability on the ball.
Here were Dunn's statistics with Chivas USA in 2014:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||7||4||407||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Finishing the season strong seemed to pay off in more ways than one for Dunn. Not only was he selected Chivas USA Player of the Month for the final two months of the season here on The Goat Parade, but he was taken second overall in the Dispersal Draft earlier this month, by New York City FC. I wouldn't bring up those facts in that order, but NYCFC actually cited those awards in their press release announcing his arrival to the expansion team. So yes, readers, MLS teams pay attention to those polls we put up!
Getting back to the fact at hand, I think Dunn is still young, and is developing as a professional. He's not the biggest guy on the park, though again, his strength is on the technical side. For Chivas, a team that struggled mightily defensively, he played pretty conservatively, prioritizing defense (for good reason) over the deep-lying playmaker part of his game. He did, however, play the ball through the middle to Kristopher Tyrpak against the Colorado Rapids for a terrific goal by the forward, jumpstarting a comeback win for the Goats, and that's promising, certainly.
I think if he's really to become a lock-down starter in MLS, he'll have to improve on both sides of the ball, of course, but balance his responsibilities moving forward. I think his time with the Goats was promising, and I think there's cause for optimism on his new team, but unless he really makes a leap up, or Jason Kreis deploys a midfield diamond and makes Dunn his new Kyle Beckerman overnight, he'll still be working for minutes next season. Either way, it should be interesting to see the young midfielder's career as it progresses.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!