Marky Delgado entered his third season with Chivas USA in 2014 with at least some question about his status heading into the season. That was primarily because the young Homegrown player was on his fourth coach already, with Wilmer Cabrera taking over for the Goats for this season. And with a new coach comes general worries about whether they'll play youth, and specific questions about where Delgado would play.
In 2013, Delgado saw plenty of playing time, especially after Jose Luis Real arrived, and began playing the midfielder as a fullback, in part because there weren't many fullbacks on the squad (including no proper left backs). It may have been a baptism by fire, but the youngster played pretty well on a terrible team.
With Cabrera taking the reins, Delgado moved back to midfield, his position in the Chivas USA Academy, and he actually played more games in 2014 than the previous year, though he did not play as many league minutes as the season before.
The result? Delgado improved again this season, and now has pro experience at a number of positions to give him considerable versatility.
Here were Delgado's statistics with CUSA in 2014:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||20||12||1,121||2||1||12||4||4||1|
|U.S. Open Cup||1||1||120||0||0||0||0||0||0|
It's a bit of a shame that Delgado, who had the final PK in the U.S. Open Cup shootout against the Carolina RailHawks, could not convert his chance to keep the shootout alive, but with four other teammates also failing to hit the target or getting their PKs saved, it was a true team effort to lose that game, and with it, any hope CUSA could finally win a trophy in their final season.
But back to more pressing matters: how did Delgado improve in 2014? He played most of the time in central midfield, as a box-to-box player who mostly stayed back to help shield the porous defense. It was a role I was a bit surprised by, and while nobody would confuse him for a midfield destroyer or a deep-lying playmaker, he showed he had ability on the defensive side of the ball, and adjusted to his defensive responsibilities better than, say, Carlos Alvarez (who was, of course, shown the door midseason).
Delgado also showed he had some attacking chops, as he scored his first pro goals and added an assist, his second of his career. The celebration he had with Erick Torres after scoring his first goal, against FC Dallas in May in a 1-1 draw, indicated the excitement Cubo had for his teammate, as he dragged the Californian over to the cameras to mug for a few moments. Meanwhile, his second goal, a bloop header that ended up being a consolation goal against the Seattle Sounders in early September, showed a fair amount of skill and mercifully ended a long scoreless drought for the Goats, that was mere minutes away from breaking a club record.
In all, that's what you want to see from young players, especially those who come through a team's system: to rise to the occasion, and to get incrementally better season by season. My main concern with Delgado, that he looked lightweight compared to the grown men around him, proved to be unfounded, and he's added some bulk over time to match up physically as well.
One of the biggest shames of Chivas USA folding is seeing club products like Delgado have to go elsewhere. In his case, Delgado has landed at a club with lots of turmoil, too (awwww! C'mon, soccer gods!) but with a familiar face in charge in Greg Vanney, who was CUSA assistant coach in 2012 when Delgado signed his pro deal. Toronto FC will be much colder, and he'll be very far from home and will be facing far more press scrutiny than in the cozy confines of Chivas USA. It's going to be an adjustment, and he'll be fighting for playing time, no question. There's even a chance he'll move to USL PRO for a time next season, to play for TFC's new USL PRO team.
But with a coach who knows him pretty well, assuming Vanney sticks around for a decent stretch of time, it should help Delgado's chances of cracking the lineup. And with his ability to play across the midfield as well as in the fullback positions, that certainly won't hurt. Add to that the fact that he'll be entering his fourth season as a professional, and the 19-year-old knows the ropes of being a pro by this point. This is like his "going to college" phase, only college for him is like 3,000 miles away and in another country (and he will be legally paid for it! *Rim shot*).
Still, it's going to hurt seeing guys like Delgado move away and play for new teams. Given the circumstances, I'm always going to be a Marky Delgado fan, and I want him to really establish himself as a pro in MLS. The bright side of Chivas USA's final and poor seasons is that Delgado got plenty of playing time, and seemed to be up to the challenge. Here's hoping he, and TFC finally reach the promised land of the MLS playoffs in 2015.
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