Commentary: Who is the ideal midfield partner for Nagamura?

Chivas USA coach Vásquez must select his 2nd central midfielder

CARSON, Calif. – With a nearly constant stream of changes to the Chivas USA roster over the course of the last eight months, first-year head coach Martín Vásquez has given himself a slew of new tactical options for the Goats starting XI.

One area where he has been particularly fond of lineup experimentation has been central midfield. As the Red-and-White head into the final third of the 2010 season, it looks as though Vásquez has settled on veteran Paulo Nagamura as one of his two central midfielders. The only question that remains is who is the best choice to partner the Brazilian in the coming weeks?

Ben Zemanski

Zemanski has been a surprise success this season. Taken 45th overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, few would have guessed that the University of Akron alumnus would do as well as he has in his rookie season.

Aggressive and scrappy, Zemanski is a tireless worker and an efficient passer of the ball. He has also started to develop an impressive long-range shot that should make him dangerous from beyond the 18-yard line for years to come. Of this group, he is stylistically the most similar to Nagamura and has already enjoyed several strong performances alongside the Brazilian.

Blair Gavin

Gavin has been impressive in his debut season for the Red-and-White. The 21-year-old, who was selected 10th overall in this year’s draft, has shown strong offensive ability and has already scored three goals and notched an assist in 16 appearances.

He has good vision and possesses that rare quality that many MLS players lack: a bit of flare. He is the most attack-minded of the Goats’ potential central midfielders, which could make him a strong complimentary presence for Nagamura’s dogged defensive work.

Michael Lahoud

In his second year in MLS, Lahoud has settled into league play and rid himself of the rookie jitters that so many players experience. Strong and agile, Lahoud is well-suited to shut down those opposing attackers that rely on physical presence for much of their offense.

He enjoys a good personal relationship with Nagamura and the two were often paired together last season. He has also been used on the right flank, so his positional flexibility combined with an extra year of experience will make him an attractive candidate down the stretch.

Marcelo Saragosa

With seven years of professional experience, Saragosa is by far the most seasoned player of this group. He won the 2005 MLS Cup with the LA Galaxy (a team on which Nagamura also played), and knows what it takes to compete deep into the postseason.

He has largely been a role-player this season, making 11 appearances for just 686 minutes so far in 2010, but his personal friendship with Nagamura is certainly an asset on the field and his experience would bring composure to a young Goats side.

And the winner is…

Gavin. The rookie has shown immense potential pushing forward and his offensive skill set nicely compliments Nagamura’s impressive defensive abilities. He is also most capable of serving as a solid linking player between the Red-and-White midfield and the team’s striker corps.

Zemanski would be second choice. The Nagamura-Zemanski partnership has already shown great promise in 2010, and any MLS goalkeeper would be none-too-pleased to face a Chivas USA side that boasts two players with proven long-range shooting ability.