CARSON, Calif. – Even before adding Shalrie Joseph to their squad, Chivas USA weren't exactly lacking depth in the center of the park.
But to make room for the newcomer, Chivas coach Robin Fraser tapped on one of his incumbent player’s strengths, utilizing Nick LaBrocca's versatility to find a spot for the four-time MLS Best XI honoree.
“Nick has the ability to play anywhere ... in the attacking part of the field,” Fraser told MLSsoccer.com, “so it gives us some flexibility.”
Fraser used that flexibility in Joseph’s debut, sliding LaBrocca to the right side of the midfield. Entering the Chivas’ game Saturday in Colorado (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online), the likelihood of LaBrocca staying out wide seems high, as Oswaldo Minda is back at full strength after overcoming a shoulder dislocation while Ben Zemanski is still very much in the mix.
WATCH: LaBrocca comes in from wide
And with right midfielder Ryan Smith still not at full health, LaBrocca in that spot seems equal parts necessity and accommodation.
“If you have the right mix of players and you find yourself in the right spot, then it will all work out,” LaBrocca said. “It’s all an adjustment. It doesn’t matter where you are, you have to adjust to the people around you.”
LaBrocca’s move to the right side will likely involve perhaps a slightly different mindset. Playing centrally throughout 2011 and much of this season, LaBrocca concentrated on defending as much as he did going forward. But with any sort of combination of Joseph, Minda and Zemanski in the middle, the defensive load is not the same as it is from the right.
That may free LaBrocca up to provide more support for the attack. It also forces him to look at the game from a different angle.
“It’s just a different mindset for [me], trying to receive the ball in different spots, different than being a central midfielder where it’s more combining,” LaBrocca said. “It’s more about [me] thinking about getting into dangerous spots.”
LaBrocca has proven dangerous in the attack before. In 2010 and 2011, he had a combined 12 assists. Last year, he scored eight goals for Chivas. This year, he has one goal and no assists, but a move out wide could help him and the rest of the club remedy their attacking struggles.
The first part of that is learning to play on the right side and becoming familiar with Joseph.
“We’re all trying to get on the same page, all trying to communicate and do the simple things really and just have us working together as a unit,” LaBrocca said. “That’s the biggest thing we’ve been working on and progress has made this week.”
Ultimately what matters most to the six-year veteran is having the right players around to do what is necessary to succeed, and that’s the kind of midfield that los Rojiblancos have now assembled.
“We’re all fighting for the same cause here,” he said. “Competition is a good thing for everyone and it keeps everybody sharp. The better players you have, the higher the level is, the better the training sessions are and the better you get in games. The more intelligent good soccer players we have the better it is for us.”
Luis Bueno covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.