Jhon Kennedy Hurtado entered Chivas USA lore as the final player ever to join the team, coming over in a trade from the Chicago Fire in August 2014. Brought in as reinforcement among the center backs after Carlos Bocanegra went down for good about a month earlier, Hurtado was expected to provide MLS experience as well as an actual upgrade at the position for the Goats.
His first game with Chivas USA, August 31 against Clasico Angelino rivals LA Galaxy, Hurtado looked dominant, a great addition to the team for 67 minutes.
Then, this happened:
I mean, it's probably a bit unfair to really blame a new guy making his debut for a club getting totally posterized by a 2014 MLS MVP finalist. But it wasn't a good look, and while no other defender on CUSA's roster would have done much better, in my opinion, it still showed the gulf in quality between Chivas and the rest of MLS.
Here were Hurtado's statistics with Chivas USA:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||6||5||450||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
So besides the anti-highlight against the Galaxy, how did Hurtado do with Chivas? He featured in six of the final 10 games of the season, with injuries slowing him a bit. Though I think he never actually reached the peak from that debut prior to the Keane goal, he was ok. He actually was part of some of the worst losses of the season, and then -- perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not -- missed out on two of the final three wins in CUSA history. Fortunately for him (and the team, of course), he finally saw a win in his final game with the club, which was also the team's final game.
Hurtado is 30, and I think he's at an interesting point in his career. He was traded to Chicago by the Seattle Sounders in the offseason, and it seems pretty likely that his best days are behind him and the Sounders knew it was time to move on. He struggled with the Fire and was eventually benched in the month prior to being traded to Chivas, and going to his third team in a year ultimately represented a false fresh start, and that's not his fault.
Can he still play in MLS? Yes. He's got over 140 MLS appearances in his career to date, and is a one-time MLS Defender of the Year finalist. He didn't go from good to horrible overnight.
But the mileage is catching up to him, and he's slowing down, literally. One of the trickiest things for a big center back to do is to go from relying on his speed to using his positioning as an asset. That's the precipice that the Colombian is at now. Can his game evolve, or will he be trying to hang on to what's worked in the past?
Hurtado went unselected in the Dispersal Draft, which isn't a big surprise. He was on $210,000 salary last year, which is pretty pricy for a player at his stage. I think it's possible he'll be taken in the Re-Entry Draft, likely the second phase, where teams can negotiate a new contract which would be lower than what he made this year.
As for his level around MLS at this point, I think he can still be a starter, but most likely at one of the poorer teams in the league. Otherwise, he'd likely be CB depth for playoff-caliber sides, making some appearances, but not an every game starter.
Ultimately, I think Chivas needed to find an experienced defender to help them through the final months of the season, and Hurtado was the man chosen. He definitely brought the experience, and the skill at times, but was not the absolute game-changer the Goats needed. I'm not sure that player was available at that point in the year, though. In this case, I think it was a trade that was a necessary risk, and though it didn't pay off in spades, it brought mixed returns and if nothing else, helped Chivas USA really become a bonafide MLS team in the final month of the season, before the rug was pulled out from under everything and the club went under.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!