When Mauro Rosales was signed prior to the start of the season, Chivas USA fans were buzzing. Here he was, the first legitimate creative midfielder the Goats have ever had (think about that for a minute) ready to pair up with one of the brightest strikers CUSA has ever seen in Erick "Cubo" Torres.
A little over 8 months later, Rosales is now out of the picture, having been traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps for Nigel Reo-Coker.
Coming into the season, Rosales was never really expected to provide a scoring punch, but it was his ability to create that made him such a key acquisition. His eight assists (four of which, coincidentally, came against Vancouver) through 21 games matched last year's production in 12 fewer games -- although that could be due to a bigger role in the CUSA offense as opposed to a secondary role on a Seattle squad filled with better attacking options.
While some may be quick to say that his departure might have a negative effect on Cubo's production, keep in mind that of Rosales' 8 assists, only 3 of those were linked to Cubo's 14 goals. The Rosales/Torres partnership never really did enough damage to say it worked out.
In any case, despite CUSA's offensive struggles, Rosales was de facto captain in the middle of the field, providing the steady type of leadership in what's become a revolving door of midfielders. His incredible work-rate was surprising for a player of his age and his ability to provide consistent defensive support made him a vital part of Wilmer Cabrera's system. While he was unable to connect on his set pieces, he proved he was still a force on his deadly accurate free kicks and corners.
Nigel Reo-Coker and a Now Vacant Designated Player Spot
In retrospect, it appeared something was out of sorts when Rosales was gradually in and out of the lineup starting in late July. In his last four games as a Goat, Rosales started only once. Whether that was due to him still resting a nagging hamstring injury, who knows?
Looking at this deal, it's hard not to look past the obvious exterior and say it was simply a move to free up a Designated Player spot. While not meant as a slight to Reo-Coker, who's still a very capable player, the team does not appear get better on paper.
Due to NRC's declining role on the team, Vancouver had supposedly been looking for someone to take on his salary and CUSA might just have been looking for someone to work a deal to free up a DP slot.
So why Rosales?
While Cubo was virtually untouchable, the possible decision came down to whether Oswaldo Minda or Rosales would be the player. While both players are equally important, you would think Minda would've been the man to go, especially considering the surplus of defensive midfielders on the roster, but considering time was running out and Vancouver wanted an attacking presence, it made sense for Rosales to be on his way out.
The plus is that NRC is aggressive enough to win balls and create turnovers in the midfield and does a decent job creating quick counters -- abilities that should fare well in a Wilmer Cabrera system. Like Rosales, Reo-Coker has a history of being the consummate professional and is the type of veteran that a young squad like CUSA can learn from.
Luckily for Reo-Coker, though, LA is nowhere close to being as bike-friendly as Vancouver and so he won't have to worry about those pesky bike racks.
What it Means Going Forward
CUSA is currently log-jammed with capable defensive midfielders (NRC, Minda, Agustin Pelletieri, Nathan Sturgis, Marky Delgado) and once again reverts to lacking the one thing that has plagued this club since day one: a legitimate creative midfielder who can send in accurate balls on set pieces.
The sad truth is that with Rosales out and Martin Rivero out for the season with a torn ACL, NRC actually now leads Chivas USA in assists across the MLS season with TWO. (Bofo is among a handful of players that are tied for second with one).
But lets be rational here, once Jorge Vergara was sent packing (actually his bags were always in Guadalajara) and Chivas USA was left without an owner, 2014 was never going to be a season meant to build a competing product. Until things are sorted out and finalized, CUSA will remain in MLS purgatory.
On the bright side, It appears management is starting to move pieces around to best suit a buyer and by freeing up a DP slot, a big name could be on the way in.
The question now is who that mystery DP is or if filling up that DP slot is even part of the immediate future. Rumors are swirling that Jermaine Jones is a candidate and while he would be a good addition for any MLS side, is he really the best fit for CUSA's needs? Would he even fill seats? A more effective signing would address needs either on the backline or getting back that creative 10 in the middle.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves now. CUSA's future both on and off the field remains a giant mystery.
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