Did Nigel Reo-Coker rehabilitate his career with Chivas USA, of all teams?
That might be overselling it just a bit, as the Englishman with considerable English Premier League experience is still just 30 years old, and would have continued playing one way or another.
But his time with the Vancouver Whitecaps, who had brought him to MLS in 2013, had clearly come to a screeching halt, and he needed a change of scenery. Finding an on-field leadership void after being traded to Chivas for Mauro Rosales in mid-August, NRC hit the ground running and (almost) never looked back.
CUSA were in a free fall when Reo-Coker arrived, as they had lost four of their last five before his arrival (the fifth game was a scoreless draw) and he didn't work any miracles, as they lost the first five games he played for the club. It appeared the Goats were stuck in a whirlpool of losing, and it was too late to do much about it.
Clearly, their late-season revival was an all hands on deck situation, among the players and coaches alike, but I think a fair amount of credit should go to Reo-Coker for helping Chivas to win three of their final four games as a club. No, he didn't score any goals, but his two-way play in the midfield and ability to boss his teammates around and get them into better positions was invaluable.
Here were Reo-Coker's statistics with Chivas USA in 2014:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||9||9||770||0||0||5||2||1||1|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Although trading away Rosales was an absolute shock, I think Reo-Coker did add something that Chivas needed. Yes, they gave up their main assist man, which was a massive risk, but the tea leaves make it pretty likely that Rosales either asked to leave or his relationship with Cabrera was unworkable. Getting a total wantaway player in Reo-Coker was a terrific stroke of luck, and rather than dog it on a terrible team for the last few months, he showed considerable hunger and really seemed to indicate that he had something to prove in MLS.
And that impressed me. We've seen situations like this on Chivas USA before, when a veteran gets traded midseason to the team and coasts his way through the string of games -- Shalrie Joseph, anyone? Reo-Coker seemed to understand that he would have zero market value in MLS, especially at his salary cost ($400,000 base salary in 2014, though he was not classified as a Designated Player), if he appeared disinterested in his new situation.
Note as well that many would not have blamed him or the other players for losing interest in Chivas USA, especially when reports emerged that the team would be put on hiatus (which turned into the club actually folding in the end). But they didn't give up, and with NRC in the middle for nine of the final 10 games of the season (the only game he missed came because he had been red carded the previous match for participating in a scuffle with Toronto FC's Jackson that was instigated by the TFC man), there was improvement at the very end.
As a result of Reo-Coker's mini-revival, at the very least, he has found a new team in MLS, as he's returning to Canada via the Montreal Impact, who picked him up this week in the Waiver Draft. Although I don't know if he's got a deal in place with them, Impact brass appear to be excited to add him to the lineup, and I think he can do good things in a similar box-to-box role for the Impact as he had with Chivas, especially on a team as young as Montreal.
Again, NRC is still just 30, so he presumably has several more years of good soccer ahead of him, and I think he can exit his brief stint with Chivas with his head held high. There were certainly struggles, and I can't tell you how many times I saw him bark directions at a fellow Goat, only for him to shake his head angrily when play didn't go the way he was dictating. But rather than get wrapped up in the deficiencies of his teammates, he stayed with the program and the team ended their season on a high.
In this case, while we can argue the merits of trading away the team's best set-up man, it can't be argued that the player CUSA got in return, Reo-Coker, ended up being a risk that paid off. And it just may have been the audition for the next MLS team he needed, in the end.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!