Thursday, May 17, 2012
CHIVAS USA: Who's in, who's out
By Scott French
CARSON -- The trade Chivas USA appeared to be making turned out to be two trades. Put together, they're a real blockbuster.
The Goats acquired teenage forward Juan Agudelo, a U.S. national teamer considered the country's brightest young star, from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for defender Heath Pearce and allocation money.
Pearce's spot will be taken by veteran center back Danny Califf, whose arrival from the Philadelphia Union has been trumpeted since Philly manager Peter Nowak began talking about it Sunday. To get Califf, the Goats gave up fourth-year winger Michael Lahoud and allocation money.
Here's a quick look at what Chivas picked up and gave up in Thursday's deals:
CHIVAS GETS ...
JUAN AGUDELO: The 19-year-old, Colombian-born striker carries huge expectations, not just in Major League Soccer, but among soccer followers all over the country. He's made 15 international appearances, scoring the winning goal against South Africa in his U.S. debut in November 2010, a week before his 18th birthday -- and he's been in all but three camps with the national team since then, missing January's HDC gathering because of injury and the February game in Italy while preparing for Olympic qualifying.
Agudelo signed with the Red Bulls in March 2010 out of the club's academy following a trial in Colombia with Millonarios. He made two league appearances for just 16 minutes as a rookie but played in 27 games last year, with 12 starts, six goals and two assists. He's seen action twice this year after recovering from knee surgery after he was injured during the Olympic qualifier.
Agudelo has tremendous talent and superstar potential, but he struggled to get ample playing time at New York and has yet to demonstrate that he can play at his best level consistently. He will wear No. 11.
DANNY CALIFF: The 32-year-old defender has played everywhere, has done everything and will provide leadership on the field and in the locker room. He was a 2000 Olympian, helping the U.S. to the bronze-medal match at the Sydney Games, and has made 23 appearances for the full national team, seeing action in World Cup qualifiers and other competitions. The veteran from Orange (Orange HS) signed a Project-40 contract (same as Generation adidas today) after an All-American sophomore season at the University of Maryland, was drafted sixth overall by the Galaxy and played in 122 MLS games over five seasons, playing a prominent role in L.A.'s 2002 MLS Cup title run. (His teammates with the Galaxy included Chivas head coach Robin Fraser, assistant coach Greg Vanney and midfielder Peter Vagenas.)
After an MLS Best XI season in San Jose, he spent three seasons in Denmark -- with Aalborg and Midtjylland -- before joining the expansion Union in 2010. Califf, Philly's captain and a fan favorite, started 28 of 30 games in Year 1 and 33 of 34 last season for the Union, but he'd seen action in only four of nine matches this year because of reported knee and hamstring injuries, one of which he disputed.
He's a solidly built (6-foot, 180 pounds), physically demanding and very heady defender who is expert at organizing backlines and will provide the Goats experience at center back that Pearce, Rauwshan McKenzie and John Alexander Valencia do not possess. He will wear No. 23.
CHIVAS LOSES ...
HEATH PEARCE: Veteran outside back with U.S. national team experience arrived in a trade from FC Dallas during preseason last year, was converted to center back and was one of Chivas' finest performers. He was part of the MLS All-Star team against Manchester United last summer and was in the January camp with the national team.
Pearce, 27, perhaps the Goats' most colorful personality, made 31 appearances with 30 starts in MLS and the U.S. Open Cup last year and is one of three players -- with goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and right back James Riley -- to have played every minute of all 10 matches this year.
He's made 35 international appearances, was with the U.S. for the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup and was part of the preliminary roster for the 2010 World Cup, although he did not make the team. He played in Denmark (Nordsjaelland) and Germany (Hansa Rostock) before debuting in MLS with FC Dallas in 2009.
MICHAEL LAHOUD: Sierra Leone-born midfielder was set to start on the right flank for the Goats, but he suffered a hamstring strain two days before the opener and was just getting back onto the field, with substitute appearances the last two games.
Chivas drafted him ninth overall in 2009 out of Wake Forest and he quickly emerged as the team's most versatile midfielder, playing at every slot until a failed attempt to convert him into a right back last season. He made 66 MLS appearances for Chivas, starting 20 games in 2010 and 17 last year, when he was sidelined for a spell with a concussion.
Lahoud is a fast, smart, technical winger who in preseason looked like he was ready to assert himself among the league's best young wide players.