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Friday, February 21, 2014

What will happen with Chivas USA?

A bomb dropped on Major League Soccer yesterday. The league is buying Chivas USA from Jorge Vergara and plans to keep the team in LA, for now. But let's not kid ourselves--we saw this coming.

If anything, a Chivas rebrand might be the best thing that could happen to the league if it really wants to move on to better things. Since 2005 the expansion side has tried to turn LA into a city of two soccer teams. For a time it worked and Chivas had serious quality when Preki was coach. Since then, however, the team has struggled and has been a type of "assured-points game" for stronger teams whenever they played.

The original intent with Chivas USA was to provide the significant Mexican presence in Southern California with a team they could truly call their own. The "Rebaño Sagrado" was the perfect fit, it seemed, since it is one of the most prominent teams in Mexico. 

One of the more curious things about the early Chivas USA was the inclusion of a heavy Mexican developmental contingent, which in retrospect was more of a stunt aimed at the local population than dealing with soccer reality. It was believed that Mexican players had an advantage being developed in a soccer community but this never translated into quality on the pitch. This, in addition to a parade of coaches, added to the misery experienced by the LA team.

But does Los Angeles really need a second soccer team? Are there really enough Chivas USA fans out there or were they always de facto Goats fans because their main team was Chivas Guadalajara? The latter is more likely to be the case.

Indeed, a case can be made that The American Goats was an experiment and that, however flawed, offered something fundamentally different from the glamor of the LA Galaxy and all that it means to the city. Chivas was often an afterthought only to be brought up for the so-called SuperClasico. And yes, at times those games were fun when Sacha Kljestan, Jonathan Bornstein and Brad Guzan played for the Rojiblancos, but the "derby" never quite caught up and was overshadowed by the Portland-Seattle rivalry when it arrived.

A move away from the LA area would serve the former Chivas team best and would benefit both the Galaxy and the league as a whole. And the team need not move too far. San Diego has been hoping to land a tier 1 soccer team for a while now, and deservedly so. It is a town rich in soccer culture and a strong market with Mexican influence that would provide a great fan base.

Los Angeles continues to run the soccer world in this country.  From Galaxy II's development in USL to the rebranding of Chivas. What else can the City of Angels give to American soccer?

1 comment:

hscribner said...

Excellent perspective on Chivas. Excited to see they're getting rebranded and the league is fixing one of its biggest issues.

Had a few questions about your piece, though. Would you mind sending me an email at hscribner@gmail.com?