OXNARD, Calif. – Chivas USA already had incredible depth in the midfield. Now it's become even deeper.
The ever-versatile Alejandro Moreno went 60 minutes for the Rojiblancos in central midfield during the club’s 1-0 defeat by the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Against Chicago, Moreno -- who has been played in a withdrawn striker behind Juan Pablo Ángel throughout the preseason — served in a box-to-box role alongside holding midfielder Oswaldo Minda and attacker Nick LaBrocca in head coach Robin Fraser's 4-3-3.
“We’re just looking for the right combination of players to be able to accomplish what we need to defensively and offensively,” Fraser told reporters on Saturday. “The thing that you know about Alejandro is that he’s going to battle and he’s going to win his share of his battles. Again, I thought today, he was very good in terms how he was able to solidify the midfield."
Moreno and Minda “balanced each other well” according to Moreno, as Chivas controlled a great deal of the possession in the first half. Alongside the burly Ecuadorian, Moreno appeared to physically out match the Fire midfield. When one won the physical battle, the other was able to gain possession and string passes forward in search of goal.
Always the fierce competitor, Moreno is not backing away from the responsibilities required by his new role.
“It’s something that I’m fairly comfortable with,” Moreno told reporters on Saturday. “It’s something that is not new. Last year, it was part of the plan and it was something that was discussed in the offseason so it doesn’t come as a surprise to me. I throw my body around; I complete the next pass, find the open guy and get the team moving forward.”
In his “fairly” new role, Moreno showed his mettle – even getting into a scuffle with Fire defender Cory Gibbs after a 50/50 challenge with Chicago captain Pável Pardo. Moreno was quick to downplay his role in the challenge, but admitted that as a midfielder, he’ll show the same propensity for challenges that made him successful as a forward.
“I’m not going to be pushed around; I’ve been around for a while,” Moreno said. “I know exactly what I’m worth to my team and what I mean to my team, and in this position that I play now, I will certainly not back off.”
But the question remains, is Moreno’s stint in central midfield just temporary or a new position or the veteran?
The answer is "time will tell." But according to the coach, don't count Moreno out.
“The reason why he could [stay] is that if there’s a competition, and he’s in it then he’s in it to win it,” affirmed Fraser.
Townsend makes debut
Casey Townsend made his first appearance for Chivas USA, going 30 minutes in the second half. The fifth overall draft pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft has struggled with a hamstring injury for three weeks, only returning to full training on Monday.
“It’s obviously frustrating when you get injured, luckily it was in the preseason and I’m able to get over that hurdle so far,” Townsend told reporters on Saturday. “It’s healed well and it’s progressed well. I got in about thirty minutes which was the plan so it’s progressed well.”
Camp roster thinned, Ángel in Colombia
Chivas USA dismissed five trialists this week, cutting ties with MLS pool goalkeeper Kevin Guppy, Supplemental selections defender Daniel Steres and midfielder Kevin Venegas along with midfielder Kennedy Chongo and goalkeeper Carl Woszcznski.
Ángel was not in Oxnard for the match, having returned to Colombia for a scheduled appearance. He is expected to return at the beginning of next week.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.