DAVID SMITH - Thursday, October 1, 2009
An unexpected leader
Through the first two games for the American team in this current FIFA U-20 World Cup, one player which has already stood out amongst the rest is defensive midfielder Bryan Arguez. Recognized as one of the factors which kept the baby-Nats' opening game loss against Germany in-check after his introduction in the second half, and also serving as the most visible anchor of a dominant midfield performance in the 4-1 followup trouncing of Cameroon (and nabbing the opening goal for good measure), the irony of the matter is that the Miami native is lucky to even be in Egypt.
Originally left off the roster by Rongen due partially to a poor showing in the qualifying tournament, Arguez was a late addition when Sam Garza - a forward - went down with a torn ACL. Even though Rongen's decision to replace a forward with a defensive midfielder might stand in the face of the simple roster mathematics, this decision has obviously worked out in the best way possible for all parties involved.
It's deja vu all over again
This situation may turn out to be a very fortunate double-boon for Arguez thanks to the recent coaching upheaval at his club, Hertha Berlin of Germany's Bundesliga. After an abysmal start to the 2009-10 season which included six losses in seven games, the worst defensive record in the league and a nice last-place standing, third-year Hertha coach Lucien Favre (no relation to Brett...as far as we know) was shown the door on Monday as last year's fourth-place finishers try to avoid an embarrassing relegation fight.
In early-2008, Favre was the coach responsible for bringing Arguez to Berlin from MLS club DC United in a reported €200,000 deal, prior the youngster having even made a first-team appearance. The 20 months since have hardly been smooth for the USA youth team regular, with no first team action to speak of (aside from a token appearance days after arriving in Berlin), a spotty place in the organization's U23 setup, several media reports of problems with the team, and generally very little to show on his resume for the time in Germany.
Throughout it all, however, both the occasional media reports on Arguez plus off-record conversations have consistently confirmed Favre to be a staunch believer in his talent, and a patient force intent on maturing and working him into the first team, either in his accustomed midfield role or, more recently as a central defender. Sadly this development is one we've seen before, where a young yank sees his biggest supporter chucked out the window and is subsequently left drifting within the organization.
Faced with returning to Berlin from Egypt with the likelihood of, at best, a new permanent coach who knows nothing of the player, Arguez could very well be finding himself with an uphill task to receive any notice from the first team staff (with whom he has periodically worked out under Favre) and looking for a new club come January (the suitors weren't exactly busting down the doors in the summer).
Seizing the opportunity
With this is mind, his surprise inclusion and impressive performances in Egypt could not have come at a better time for his immediate future. While it may do little to turn the heads of whomever ends up being Hertha's new permanent coach, the multitude of scouts in the stands likely already have taken notice. His two appearances have so far shown a tenacious young player (his 21st birthday falls in the January transfer window) which many clubs could covet, likely helping to drum up the interest which would lead to an offer that the Berlin club would be willing to take.
With two games down and at least one (although we're expecting several more) to go, Arguez is now playing for more than just the outcome of the tournament, and we can only hope that this will continue to bring out the fire we've already seen as the team tackles its remaining games.