CARSON, Calif. — It wasn’t a coincidence nearly two months ago when Chivas USA midfielder Marco Delgado became the youngest player to start an MLS match this season.
Amando Moreno (17) of the New York Red Bulls and Michael Seaton (17) of D.C. United have appeared in games this season and are both younger than the 18-year-old Delgado, but they haven’t seen the field nearly as much as the Chivas USA youngster.
It’s been by design. Delgado has surfaced as a steady contributor for the Goats since making his first career start on June 29 against the New England Revolution, playing every minute of every match since then. The victories haven’t arrived, but head coach José Luis “Guero” Real has stayed with his objective of integrating youth into the starting lineup every week.
“I knew my time was coming,” Delgado told MLSsoccer.com recently. “I felt it because I kept working. My time came when coach Real arrived. I was very confident in myself as a player.”
Delgado said captain Dan Kennedy, newcomer Carlos Bocanegra and Tristan Bowen, among others, have helped him tremendously in adjusting to life as a starter. Midfielder is his natural position, but he has been slotted at right back the last two months despite not having much experience there in the past.
Real has been impressed with how Delgado has handled the transition for last-place Chivas USA, who return to action Wednesday night against FC Dallas following a bye week (7:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
“Marky has exceeded our expectations,” Real told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s done everything well. He defends well and is always on time when pursuing the ball. He makes good decisions with the ball and is effective in limiting his mistakes. He’s very durable.”
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There are areas Delgado needs to improve on, Real added, primarily in aerial battles and with left-foot accuracy. Yet the only way for him to do is by gaining experience in games.
“It’s all part of the project,” Real said. “My job here isn’t exactly to win matches, which is obviously very important, but we’ve got to win in other areas, too. We’ve got to give an opportunity to the young players. I know there’s a lot of young talent in the United States, especially in California. The best way to show that is to play the young guys and give them a taste in this league.”
Delgado, for his own part, wants to get on a score sheet and lock up his spot before the year is over.
“I don’t want to feel too comfortable,” the Los Angeles-area native said. “That’s never a good feeling. I’m always on my toes. I want to prove to them that I deserve to be where I’m at and won’t let anyone else come in and take my position.”