Of all the players in this series, Tristan Bowen may seem the oddest fit. After all, he played in 18 regular season matches last year and even scored a couple of goals. That said, no one is going to pretend that Bowen has come anywhere close to reaching his potential.
The first player officially signed under the Home Grown Player Rule (but not the first to be produced by a team's academy), Bowen is now in a situation where he can really showcase his talents. After two seasons with the LA Galaxy, where he started 10 games last year as a replacement for Edson Buddle, Bowen was traded to Chivas USA in exchange for allocation money that was ultimately used to help sign Juan Pablo Angel.
Bowen has shown flashes that he's capable of being a premier scoring threat, but other than a seven-match stretch in which he started every game, he's not been given many opportunities to show show what he can do over an extended period. He's been tried as an outside midfielder as well as a forward with the Goats and will likely see time at both positions this season.
What can Bowen do to improve his game?
The biggest thing Bowen can do this year is become more versatile. He's basically been groomed as a forward, but has been seeing some time in the midfield with Chivas. If coach Robin Fraser makes good on his attempts to institute a 4-1-4-1 formation, Bowen will likely find himself on the wing as fellow youngster Justin Braun is the clear No. 1 forward. Even in a two-forward set-up, Bowen is going to be fighting with much more seasoned veterans and Fraser may be reluctant to put his entire strike force in the hands of two players with just four professional seasons between them. Transitioning from forward to wing is not easy for anyone, let alone a 20-year-old who has been used almost exclusively at forward.
How will you know when he's figuring it all out?
With Fraser bringing in so many veterans, it seems pretty clear that he intends to make players earn playing time. For all the promise Bowen has flashed, he's only going to be playing if he is earning it. That said, if Bowen sees 1,500 minutes or more, we can safely say he's progressing almost regardless of production.
What's a reasonable expectation in terms of production and playing time?
Bowen doesn't need to set the world ablaze, but if he can just maintain his production last year in limited time over a longer period that would probably be sufficient. Two goals and two assists over 878 minutes would translate to about five goals and three assists over 2,000 minutes. More importantly, those 2,000 minutes would mean he's earned some significant playing time.
What's the ceiling on Bowen?
Bowen's longterm future is still probably as a forward. That's where he was playing while with the Galaxy, and that's where he's mostly played for the U.S. U-18 and U-20 teams. He could develop into a capable midfielder, but it seems more likely that he'll only reach his full potential as a forward, where he has the potential to be one of the better forwards in the league and maybe even a U.S. National Team contributor.