CHIVAS: Cardozo offers new dynamic
CARSON -- Chivas USA's backline got a little thinner and its midfield depth a little bulkier in Tuesday's trade with the Galaxy.
L.A. needed a center back, and Brazilian man-mountain David Junior Lopes had fallen to No. 4 or 5 on the Goats' depth chart. Chivas is looking to add flavor to its burgeoning attack, and Argentine playmaker Paolo Cardozo, the club's brain trust believes, does the trick.
Cardozo, 22, was the Galaxy's most skilled player, but he's slight -- just 5-foot-5, 135 pounds -- and has at times too easily been knocked off the ball. He's not much of a defender, either. But he offers attacking ideas and the foot skills to make magic happen.
Chivas hopes that can pay off for a club that finally showed some attacking acumen in the second half of Saturday night's victory at Portland, its fifth game of the season.
“He's an interesting player, a different type of player you don't see very often in this league,” general manager Jose Domene told ESPN Los Angeles after the deal went down Tuesday afternoon. “He's still young, still has growth potential.”
Cardozo, who was born in Uruguay but raised in Argentina and is on loan from Argentine second-division club Quilmes, made 23 first-team appearances for the Galaxy last year and two this season, coming off the bench in the second leg of L.A.'s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal loss to Toronto FC and starting in the 3-1 defeat 10 days ago against New England. His ability to beat defenders one-on-one in the tightest of spaces contributed to the Galaxy's MLS trophy runs and especially in Champions League group play last year.
“I think he's just another good soccer player who's comfortable on the ball,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “We'd like to be able to dictate the game through our possession, and he's certainly a player who has demonstrated a good ability on the ball and a good comfort level on the ball. We've also seen moments where he can be a very dangerous attacking player.”
Fraser said Cardozo's “characteristics” remind him of diminutive (just 5-4) Galaxy legend Mauricio Cienfuegos, a Salvadoran central midfielder so pivotal in the franchise's early success. Fraser was a center back (and assistant coach Greg Vanney played at left back) for those L.A. teams.
“I think to be a successful player of that size, you certainly have to be really quick in the mind and technically very good,” the coach said. “I see Paolo has some of those characteristics.”
Lopes, a terrific athlete, has been an erratic defender, capable of big stops or of committing fouls that put his team at risk on set pieces or can lead to cards, yellow or red. He hadn't made a first-team appearance this season and wasn't on the game rosters for the past three games.
“We feel like David is a good and competent player,” Fraser said. “He's a good, strong, physical specimen. We had guys come in and do well [during preseason and to start the campaign. ... We certainly were looking to increase our attacking options.”
Said Domene: “Right now we have Heath [Pearce], Rauwshan [McKenzie], [John Alexander] Valencia, Scott Gordon [available at center back] -- and all can play. With David, we had five center backs. What we really wanted to do is get a different type player. A pure attacking midfielder. [Cardozo is] different, a left-footed player. He takes on players. He's a different type of player.”
Chivas has primarily used Nick LaBrocca and Alejandro Moreno as the attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 alignment that uses a triangle in the center of midfield, with an attacker above two holding midfielders. Cardozo and Ecuadoran newcomer Miller Bolaņos, 21, who has similar qualities and continues to adjust to Major League Soccer, offer greater dynamism as the Goats continue to build their offense.
“People say we're very deep in midfield, but you always need attacking players,” Domene said. “If we can keep the ball, keep possession moving forward, experience possession on the attacking side of the field, we think we can be very dangerous. Cardozo is the kind of player who helps you keep that ball, helps you combine.”