I still maintain Oswaldo Minda is one of the most underrated players in MLS.
Yes, he's a midfield destroyer, a role that many soccer fans turn their noses at. Destroyers are the type of players who can't play the ball, who play dirty, and who even hurt opponents on purpose.
Can Minda play the ball? Admittedly, not very well. Is he a dirty player? I can't lie, I've heard opposing fans level that accusation his way. But has he hurt any opponents? Not that I'm aware of.
Defensive midfield is not a glamorous position anyway, but destroyers play the least aesthetically pleasing role on the field.
All of this disparaging of Minda's strengths is to conclude that despite the reputation, despite the rap on him in particular that he's a yellow card machine (and leading the league in yellows in 2014 for the second time in his three MLS seasons bolsters that point), there's still a lot to admire about Minda's game.
Why do opponents think he's dirty? He is a pest. In hockey, pests are a valued part of a team, the player whose job is to get opposing players angry, getting under their skin and drawing penalties. In much the same way, defensive midfielders can play a similar role in soccer, throwing attackers off their game by persistently fouling them, getting under their skin, stepping a little too close during restarts, that kind of thing. Minda memorably provoked Kenny Cooper into a screaming tantrum back in 2012, so he knows what he's doing on that front.
And for a defense as consistently weak as Chivas USA's, Minda's skills at busting up plays, whether by taking the ball or stepping in to foul to literally end the play, was beyond valuable. He may not have the rounded games of the best defensive midfielders in MLS, but I'd argue he's no more than a step below the very best two or three guys.
Here were Minda's statistics with CUSA in 2014:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||20||20||1,613||0||0||5||0||12||1|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Bolstering Minda's credentials as a better player than most give him credit for is his ascension from Ecuador's provisional World Cup squad, to being left off the 23-man roster for Brazil, before being drafted in as a late replacement for an injured Segundo Castillo. Once he was on the plane to Brazil, the wonders didn't stop, as Minda went from sitting on the bench for Ecuador's first group stage game (a loss to Switzerland) to starting in the subsequent two matches (a win over Honduras and a scoreless draw against France).
Ecuador may not be at the very top of the global elite, but to start multiple games in the World Cup on a team that does have talent is nothing to sneeze at. I doubt many were expecting Minda, who hadn't been in the national team mix for more than a year before the World Cup, to actually make the team for Brazil, but that's exactly what he did. And he helped his team earn four points in the games he played on the biggest stage.
It was a good validation for a player who remained under the radar with Chivas. Let's suppose for a moment Minda played for one of the higher profile teams in MLS -- his praises would be sung far more loudly, no question. Like his other talented Goats teammates, Minda suffered from playing for a bad team, and Chivas were bad in all of his three seasons.
But that doesn't mean he's bad. He was consistently a top three player on Chivas, and before Erick Torres arrived, I'd say Minda was second-best player on the team behind Dan Kennedy. Folks, I don't throw around praise like that lightly.
In all, Minda continued to show his value as one of CUSA's Designated Players to the very end. By the time of the final game, he was the second-longest tenured player on the team, behind Dan Kennedy, and while that's an indictment of Chivas as much as anything, Minda was a consistent presence on the field. Yes, he picked up a lot of yellow cards, but he only had one red card his entire three seasons in MLS, and that came this season. To make it 58 games with just one red card still shows enough discipline on his part to not pick up ejections like he did cautions, and shows an intelligence behind his physical play.
Needless to say, I remain a huge fan of Minda's, and think CUSA made a great investment with him. There were ups and downs, but even when it looked like the Vergara regime was pushing him out the door in early 2013, he stuck with it as a professional and persevered with quality play.
I'd like to see him remain in MLS for 2015, but he'll be out of contract next week and no team has officially picked him up yet. I have an inkling he'll probably return to Ecuador, and it would be a shame to see him leave MLS. He may not be the silky player we all dream of being, but he's effective and can anchor a midfield. Here's hoping he gets more time in the United States (or Canada) moving forward.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!