CARSON, Calif. – With Oswaldo Minda and Daniel Antunez both sidelined with leg injuries, Chivas USA suddenly find themselves thin at the defensive midfielder position that manager José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá holds crucial to his 3-5-2 formation.
Second-year midfielder Marvin Iraheta, who replaced the injured Antunez last weekend, appears to be the leading candidate to fill the void, but has minimal MLS experience after missing his rookie season with a leg injury of his own.
“It’s a big responsibility,” Iraheta told MLSsoccer.com. “Minda and Antunez are great players. I need to produce how they had been producing. I need to contribute to the team like they had been.”
Iraheta, 20, has appeared in five of the six matches this year and made two starts. The Los Angeles-raised Salvadoran missed all of 2012 due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The injury occurred in the preseason, just two weeks after he signed with the club.
Chelís declined an interview request, but the coach has previously praised Iraheta for his hard work as a holding midfielder.
“Marvin works like a dog in there,” goalkeeper Dan Kennedy told MLSsoccer.com. “He works for turnovers. Throughout the season, we’re going to be tested on the depth of our roster. Whether it’s Marvin or somebody else, hopefully they can step in, fill the role and continue to push our team forward.”
Iraheta said recent conversations with Chelís have been encouraging.
“We’ve spoken a lot,” Iraheta said. “He has given me confidence. He’s put me on the team and in the lineup, so I’m working hard to contribute and do whatever I can.”
Minda (strained quad) scored a goal on March 10, while Antunez (torn meniscus) had made his first career MLS start last weekend. Still, Iraheta is confident in his own abilities.
“It’s not a big difference in our playing style,” Iraheta said. “The big thing for me is recovering the ball and finding an outlet. I like doing it. That’s what they had been doing and, now, that’s my job. Let’s see what happens.”