I choose to think of Carlos Alvarez's departure from Chivas USA in 2014 as going through dispersal before everybody else.
The second-year midfielder only lasted with the Goats until the start of July, when he was traded to the Colorado Rapids for midfielder Nathan Sturgis. A shocking move? Yes and no.
From a fan perspective, it was certainly shocking, as Alvarez was one of the faces of the club, even if the team didn't actually market him all that much. The local kid, from East LA, who moved back in with his parents when he was drafted by Chivas ahead of the 2013 season, Alvarez had a rookie campaign that was inconsistent, perhaps not surprising when many rookies have up-and-down debut seasons in MLS, not to mention the severe talent deficit on the squad his first year. But in getting plenty of playing time, it appeared Alvarez had potential to build on, and could really cement his place in the lineup his second year.
But Alvarez was part of a midfield rotation on Wilmer Cabrera's team, and while playing a role that was more defensive than playmaking, didn't have the same impact as his first year. I suppose credit should be given to Alvarez for playing in a different, less flashy role and really giving it a go, but with the likes of Oswaldo Minda and Agustin Pelletieri on the roster at that point, not to mention Martin Rivero and Mauro Rosales settling into the playmaker roles, Alvarez seemed like depth all around.
What's interesting is that while one might expect he wasn't in Cabrera's plans and therefore was traded away to pick up some assets, Alvarez actually played his way into the lineup this season, albeit in a substitute's role much of the time. After sitting out the first three games of 2014, Alvarez played in 11 of the final 12 league games with CUSA before the trade, as well as the U.S. Open Cup match.
Here were Alvarez's statistics with Chivas USA in 2014:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||11||7||694||0||0||15||3||4||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||1||1||90||0||0||0||0||0||0|
I think the mystery surrounding Alvarez's trade is whether Colorado wanted him more or Cabrera wanted Sturgis more. In hindsight, my initial point is irrelevant, that I didn't think Sturgis was a good enough upgrade (if an upgrade at all, really) for the future upside being exchanged, since Chivas is no more. I still don't know that I would make the trade, honestly. Overall, I'm indifferent to the effect.
But Alvarez had a down year, moving from one team that finished in last place his first season to one that finished in second-to-last place. In Colorado, he didn't get a chance to be a playmaker either, as it appears all of his coaches thought he would be best suited to playing a holding role that was new. It didn't really work.
The Rapids announced that they didn't pick up Alvarez's option in November, but SB Nation Rapids site Burgundy Wave argued that Alvarez should be brought back. Whether he actually will is to be determined, but at least they think he has enough upside to come back.
Obviously I'd like to see Alvarez succeed in MLS, but I do think 2015 is a critical year in his career. If he re-signs with the Rapids or finds another MLS team, he's going to need to really show progress to cement his status as a contributor in the league.
It may be a bit unfair, in that it seems he's been playing in roles that don't fully show off his talents and he's played on pretty awful teams while in MLS. He may not be a game breaker, but that doesn't mean he's not capable of really establishing himself on a solid team in this league. Put simply, he's not gotten a real chance in that regard.
Either way, the East LA native who scored one of the most memorable goals in Chivas USA history in his debut flew the coop, perhaps earlier than we expected, but not by much. Here's hoping the future is bright for Alvarez.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!