As the news broke of Chivas USA midfielder Martin Rivero's unfortunate ACL injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season, decisions will have to be made as to who will fill two of the most important positions in Wilmer Cabrera's defensive system. There have been trends that may point to his preferred partnership, but an additional Agustin Pelletieri twist may have made things even more uncertain.
I have listed out the game weeks followed by that that game's central midfield pairing. DM subs are listed in parenthesis.
Phase 1: Mindatieri
Game 1: CHI - Minda, Pelleteiri (Fragoso subbed on)
Game 2: VAN - Minda, Pelleteri (Fragoso subbed on)
Game 3: @FCD - Minda, McNamara (Delgado subbed on)
At the start of the season, the Oswaldo Minda/Agustin Pelletieri ("Mindatieri") combo was in full effect. The two experienced defensive midfielders looked to reinforce a shaky backline and also instill a bit of leadership to a relatively young lineup. Unfortunately, the tandem was short-lived after only 1 game. Pelletieri's 1-game red card suspension in week 2 and Minda's hamstring injury the following week meant that "Mindatieri" would have to wait.
Phase 2: Alvarez fills in for Minda until Mindatieri returns
Game 4: @NY - Alvarez, Pelletieri (Delgado subbed on)
Game 5: LAG - Alvarez, Pelletieri (Delgado on left bench)
Game 6: @POR - Alvarez, Pelletieri (Delgado subbed on)
Game 7: SEA - Delgado, Pelletieri (Minda on left bench)
Game 8: @SJ - Pelletieri, Minda (Rivero on left bench)
Game 9: HOU - Minda, Pelletieri (Rivero subbed on, Delgado left on bench)
Game 10: @COL - Minda, Pelletieri (Delgado started out wide right)
With Minda out nursing his injury, Cabrera decided on partnering young attacking mid Carlos Alvarez with Pelletieri for week 4,5,and 6. Once Minda was back to full fitness in week 8, the Mindatieri project was resurrected and the duo started the next 3 games. Things appeared back to plan.
Phase 3: Martin Rivero breaks up Mindatieri
Then came the signing of Martin Rivero.
The traditional 4-2-3-1 formation calls for two defensively-capable mids that can assist the backline, with one of those two mids having the double duty of attacking and defending. Minda and the awkward Pelletieri, while strong defensively, seriously limited the attack. The arrival of Rivero, a central creative mid with the ability to build attacks and defend essentially gave Cabrera a more viable option in the middle of the pitch.
Game 11: @FCD - Minda, Rivero (Pelletieri on bench)
Game 12: POR - Pelletieri, Rivero
Game 13: PHI - Minda, Rivero (Pelletieri subbed on, Delgado started out right)
Game 14: @LAG - Rivero, Pelletieri (Delgado subbed on)
Game 15: RSL - Rivero, Pelletieri (Delgado subbed on)
Rivero completely cemented his spot starting in week 11 against Dallas alongside Minda. When Minda left for World Cup duties after week 13 (after serving a yellow card suspension in week 12), we saw Pelletieri/Rivero paired up for the two games prior to our most recent match against San Jose.
In any case, It appeared Cabrera preferred Minda over Pelletieri as Rivero's midfield partner.
Phase 4: The Current State of the Goats
Game 16: @SJ - Minda, Delgado (Sturgis subbed on, Pelletieri left on bench)
Wednesday night's contest vs the Earthquakes not only saw the return of Minda, but it also marked the debut of new defensive midfielder Nathan Sturgis. It was interesting to see Cabrera sub in Sturgis to help preserve the lead, while Pelletieri remained unused on the bench. It may have been a sign that Cabrera favors the player he used to coach in Colorado (Sturgis) over the 32-year-old Argentine.
On the other hand, there have been rumblings that Pelletieri has expressed his desire to return to Argentina. He has been linked to a number of Argentine first division teams and may be on his way out.
Agustin Pelletieri, ex Racing y Lanús, es pretendido por Belgrano. Hoy esta en Chivas USA— JuanFranco Gagliardi (@juanfgagliardi) July 2, 2014
With the news that Rivero will be out for the rest of the season, we finally find out why Cabrera wanted Sturgis ASAP. On top of that, if Pelletieri does in fact leave, the Sturgis move makes even more sense.
Assuming the worst, CUSA will be left with Minda, Marky Delgado, and Sturgis not only as the lone DMs on the roster, but as the only true central midfielders on the roster. All three are very capable options, but Cabrera must either find a way to regain depth or change his tactics to better fit his roster.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!