Chivas USA seek midfield stability

Juan Pablo Garcia is Chivas USA's biggest scoring threat in the midfield.

Photo Credit: 
Juan Miranda/MLS/WireImage.com

no one can do it by (himself). It has to be collective. I still feel he can add to that."

A year ago, Ramirez played in 31 matches and a total of 2,573 minutes, his best output since the 2002 calendar year. The 36-year-old enters the preseason as one of the team's key players in the heart of the field.

Perhaps the club's best scoring option from the midfield is Juan Pablo Garcia. The former Atlas standout had just one goal in nine games with the club a year ago but struggled to find his niche in the team. A full preseason with the club should benefit Garcia greatly.

Among the more pleasant surprises from last season was Francisco Mendoza. The lone youngster brought up from Chivas La Piedad still with the team, Mendoza gives the team a much-needed spark from the left side of the midfield. The 20-year-old's play was noticed in Mexico as top-flight clubs Veracruz and Chiapas tried unsuccessfully to pry Mendoza from Chivas USA. Antonio Martinez could also help from the left side. Martinez proved to be a dangerous option from the left side and flourished under former coach Hans Westerhof. Martinez was used more often as a striker but is adept in the midfield as well.

While Mendoza is seemingly the front-runner to start at left midfielder, the job for right midfielder is seemingly open. Arturo Torres and Matt Taylor can play out right, though both spent most of their time at forward last year. Garcia might also be an option on the right flank. Right back Ezra Hendrickson could also play right midfield, though that is seemingly a long shot.

Whoever plays out wide must be cognizant of The Home Depot Center's cavernous pitch.

"Our wide players have to (have) a better understanding of when they're out wide, when they're helping inside ... especially on a wide field," Bradley said. "They can't be standing out by the touchlines and now expecting that one or two guys in the center of the field are going to take care of everything."

Other MLS veterans who should be part of the equation this year are holdovers Francisco Gomez and Jesus Ochoa. Gomez suffered through an injury-riddled 2005 campaign but had one of the best preseason performances from a year ago. Previously with the Kansas City Wizards, Gomez is versatile as he did well in a short-lived stint at center back last year.

Ochoa, meanwhile, did well when called upon last year. The former Galaxy player and Southern California product started 12 games in the midfield last year and gives Bradley a solid defensive midfield option.

Orlando Perez spent time last year in the midfield and gives Bradley an option at both defense and in the midfield. Normally a left back, Perez slid into a defensive midfield position under Westerhof and held his own.

First-round pick Sacha Klejstan has been an attacking standout both in college and at the youth national team level. Along with gifted youngster Rodrigo Lopez, Kljestan could struggle for playing time as the club tries to sort out the midfield. Both, however, are a key part of the club's future.

Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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