I think Bobby Burling might be a little bit underrated.
Ok, maybe I'm the one who underrated him. And the numbers don't lie -- he's not played for a "good" team, by any metric, since rejoining Chivas USA in the summer of 2012.
But I have always thought he was ponderous of foot and of decision, and figured CUSA's move to get Andrew Jean-Baptiste from the Portland Timbers in the offseason represented a change in the lineup, as Burling would get the boot and AJB would play alongside Carlos Bocanegra. Burling would then be the first option off the bench.
But that's not how it happened, at all.
Burling was an unquestionable starter in 2014 for the Goats, missing time only because of a shoulder injury in March and April and knee surgery that ended up sidelining him almost two months in July and August. Had he not gone down with those injuries, Burling could have very well played more than 30 games this season under Wilmer Cabrera.
Here are Burling's statistics for 2014:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||22||20||1,807||1||0||8||1||7||1|
|U.S. Open Cup||1||1||120||0||0||0||0||0||0|
So getting back to my point at the top of this article, I think Burling showed he was capable of being a starter this season. No, he's not going to win an MLS Best XI spot, but he's found a way to work within himself really well, especially with somewhat improved pieces around him. He's physical and was not afraid to body up opponents, without going overboard, but has seemed to work on his positioning over time, so he's less apt to have to recover, something that he does not excel at.
In particular, the pieces around him improved in 2014 compared to the disaster of a defense the previous year, but I also think he improved this season. He was also a key figure, as he played in eight of the team's nine wins, and four of their six draws. So a player who helped the Goats earn 28 of their 33 points on the season? That might be the best return on the team, besides Dan Kennedy.
Add to that Burling's consistent appreciation of Chivas USA's fan support over the season -- something he's consistently done over the years, and he's a player who distinguished himself with his class. It shouldn't even be something that has to be remarked upon, but with most of the team's players only occasionally thanking supporters after games and writing appreciative messages on social media, Burling's consistency in dealing positively with the fans, the horribly beaten down fans who ended up watching years of terrible teams and at the end of it all lost their team too, indicates a player who has perspective and perhaps is appreciative of getting a shot with this unloved club as well.
Though the eight-year veteran wasn't taken in the Dispersal Draft, which was a bit of a surprise to me, he was taken by the Colorado Rapids in the Waiver Draft earlier this month. That seems like a good situation for him, as he grew up in Colorado and is going to a team that could use a healthy veteran at center back, especially with Drew Moor likely still recovering from his torn ACL in the early months of the 2015 season.
And while Colorado really took a nosedive late in the 2014 season, they still have some talent and could bounce back with a few tweaks and better luck with injuries in the coming season. I'm not sure if Burling would necessarily be a lock as starter for the full season, depending on Moor's recovery and what's happening with Shane O'Neill (including his position), as well as the other CBs around when the season gets underway, though he'll certainly get action over the course of the season, and who knows, maybe he could become a regular starter on yet another team.
And as a recent profile of Burling on the Rapids' website indicated, Burling is excited to play for his new team, and is also apparently getting married in the offseason. These are exciting times for him, and given the effort and commitment he brought to Chivas, it's good to see him doing well.
And while he never will be a marquee name, on his respective team or in MLS overall, Burling has carved out a nice career for himself. And for a 30-year-old defender, one who seemed to have limitations to his game, to persist and even improve at this stage, is impressive indeed. I'll continue to be a fan of his as his career continues.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!