LaBrocca earns respect with All-Star nod
CARSON, Calif. — Chivas USA midfielder Nick LaBrocca is enjoying a banner year, and now he’ll be able to have his family and friends see him play in the biggest match of his career just miles away from his hometown.
On Monday, LaBrocca was named to the game-day roster for the MLS All-Star Game on July 27 against Manchester United. The match at Red Bull Arena will take place less than an hour from Lincroft, N.J., where LaBrocca attended high school.
Born in Staten Island, N.Y., but raised in New Jersey, LaBrocca has remained incredibly humble amid his sudden rise, stating on Saturday that it would be something special if he were selected for the All-Star Game.
“I'll be extremely honored because it's back home,” said LaBrocca after Chivas USA's scoreless draw on Saturday at home against the Red Bulls. "Jersey is a place where I spent 21 years, my family is there and even going back for Red Bull games is exciting because I can see them. To have [the MLS All-Star Game] in my backyard is exciting."
Throughout the first half of the season, the fleet-footed midfielder has been one of the catalysts to Chivas USA’s renaissance. Acquired in a late preseason trade from Toronto for forward Alan Gordon, LaBrocca is enjoying his best campaign yet. On his third team in four years, he has found a home with Chivas USA due to his energetic play in midfield as well as his confident finishing ability.
Starting all 20 matches so far for the Goats, the midfielder has scored six goals and added three assists, while turning himself from utility player to “X factor” for an emerging attack. Although the previously unheralded midfielder has enjoyed a breakout season, LaBrocca admits there has been only one change.
"The only thing really different about all of this is that more people want to talk to me after games,” LaBrocca told MLSsoccer.com. “I block it all out. I don't know what else is going on outside my little world. The opinions that matter most to me are my teammates, my coaches and my family."
LaBrocca will be joined at the All-Star Game by his Chivas teammate, defender Heath Pearce. While it is the Jersey-raised midfielder’s first appearance at MLS’ own midsummer night’s classic, it is the second for Pearce, who laced up for the All-Stars last year. Pearce has undergone a transformation of his own this season, re-inventing himself from left back to the center back while serving as the fulcrum of the Chivas USA back line.
Although Pearce has received his own accolades, the veteran defender is pleased LaBrocca is finally earning the recognition that he’s earned.
"He's an extremely underrated player because he hasn't been getting the respect that he deserves over the years,” said Pearce after Saturday’s match. “He started out a bit slow for us when he got here, but he's been getting better every game. He's on a roll and is showing that he's a force to be reckoned with.”
After wowing opposing MLS coaches, LaBrocca will now have the opportunity to show Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United just what a force he’s become.
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano