BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Chivas USA is currently in the midst of a difficult season but one of the bright spots has come from teenage American midfielder Marky Delgado who has broken into the starting lineup.
Delgado signed with Chivas USA in April 2012 to a homegrown contract at the age of just 16 and after a year developing with the club, he is poised to earn significant minutes with the first team this season.
The Glendora, California made his professional debut with Chivas USA last October as a second half substitute in a 4-0 loss to Vancouver. This year, however, he is beginning to take a more prominent role with in the club. His season debut came on April 13 in a 2-2 draw against San Jose but his minutes have been consistent recently as he has played in his last six including four straight starts.
Delgado only recently turned 18 but he feels confident from his run of extended minutes and he believed it had been coming.
"I feel great out there," Delgado said. "I feel confident and really prepared. I wasn't nervous at all. I wouldn't say I'm surprised. But I work hard every day at training so I knew my time was coming soon. I expected it to come soon."
While it has been a breakthrough for Delgado, it has come a difficult period for Chivas USA who are mired in last place in the Western Conference with just 14 points through 19 games. In addition, the club continues to draw small crowds are the Stubhub center while its co-tenants, the Los Angeles Galaxy, continue to be the top team in the city.
Delgado insists that he is not distracted by the club's problems but is instead focused on continuing to improve every week.
"I'm just working hard," Delgado explained. "I'm not paying attention to what else is going around. I'm paying attention to what is happening on the field and in improving myself as a young player to get to the next level."
It would take a near miracle at this point for Chivas USA to qualify for the playoffs but the club has been playing better soccer in recent weeks earning draw on the road against Montreal and FC Dallas in recent games.
Chivas USA also made headlines recently as it signed former U.S national team captain Carlos Bocanegra after he parted ways with Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers.
Delgado has played both central midfield and right wing for Chivas USA but admits that he feels more comfortable centrally. While Bocanegra is central defender, Delgado believes he can learn a lot from the two-time World Cup veteran and that he can provide some much-needed leadership to Chivas USA.
"I've seen him play and signing him is big time for the club," Delgado said of Bocanegra. "I'm hoping to learn a lot from him playing and training with him. I'm really excited."
In addition to Chivas USA, Delgado is also expected to play a role with the new US U-20 team as it prepares to start its new cycle after this most recent World Cup in Turkey where it failed to advance out of group play.
Delgado has been a regular with the US U-18 national team and served as the team's captain in the recent second place finish at the Lisbon International Tournament. In Portugal, the U.S team defeated the Czech Republic and drew hosts Portugal before falling to Hungary in the finals.
"It's been an incredible experience," Delgado said of his time with the U-18s. "We have great quality players in our age group and Javier Perez is a great coach. We're working hard every training session. In our last tournament we got second place and we're moving up."
Now Delgado and his U-18 teammates will be focused on making the move up to the US U-20 level. The club is aware of the recent struggles for the U.S team at the U-20 World Cup where it failed to advance out of the group stages in 2009 and 2013 and did not even qualify for the tournament in 2011.
The US U-20 team will begin with a high number of players in a professional environment and Delgado is optimistic as the cycle begins.
"Our group moving up is really motivated to help the U.S move in soccer to do better as players and as a team," Delgado said. "At the next U-20 World Cup, we want to win it."
It has been a long road for Delgado in representing the United States. He grew up in Southern California and is the son of Mexican-born parents. In his younger days he watched the Mexican national team play with his father and supported them.
As he grew as a player, he began to appreciate the U.S team and eventually received a call-up. At first it was for the U-17 team and then the U-18 where eventually he became captain.
"As a young kid, I didn't really know much about the US-Mexico rivalry," Delgado said. "My dad always watched Mexico play. As I grew more as a player, understood what the rivalry meant. But eventually I got a call from the U.S and saw it as a great opportunity and I took advantage of it. I've enjoyed it."
Delgado and Chivas USA will return to action Wednesday night when they host Toronto FC.