‘Chivas USA is no more’ was a headline that brought sighs of relief rather than disappointment. That alone showed just how depressing the tenure of the Hispanic-orientated franchise really was. It’s clear there were far more lowlights than highlights at Chivas. Nothing more so than the one-sided SuperClasico. LA Galaxy may well demonstrate how to excel in MLS with a formula involving the superstars, veterans and youth in a perfect blend, but the distance between the Galaxy and Chivas in a league of parity was truly depressing. Chivas won the SuperClasico 4 times, while LA emerged victorious 17 times.
It’s hard to believe that initially, Chivas saw success. The franchise came to existence in 2005 and endured a rocky start under head coaches Thomas Rongen and Hans Westerhof. At the third time of asking, Chivas found the answer. Former MLS Coach of the Year, Bob Bradley, was the man given the task of turning the team around. It was a short tenure, as Bradley soon began the steps to international management, but his reign at the club saw Jonathon Bornstein win rookie of the year as the Goats moved into the MLS playoffs.
Under his successor, Preki, it was obvious that the Los Angeles club could produce top talent. In fact, one has recently hit his peak at Aston Villa. Brad Guzan was the part of the squad under Preki along with talents such as Bornstein and Kljestan. Chivas were to hit their peak as they sealed their third consecutive playoff berth in MLS. They were only going to add one more appearance in the playoffs. Four in a row, and none since.
After Preki, a terminal decline hit. It was hardly surprising when you consider their “strategy.” Bizarrely, the club seemed to enjoy selling off or losing its best talent for little in return. In recent times, letting Juan Agudelo go for $75,000 in allocation money is mind boggling. The same Agudelo who’s now plying his trade in Utrecht in anticipation to play in the Premier League with Stoke City. Arguably, little matters if you replace a player well. They brought in the little played Gabriel Farfan from the Union. The less said the better.
Indeed, their affiliation with parent club Chivas Guadalajara was to cause issues too. Most recently, Erik Torres has shown to be one of the only bright sparks of a dismal season in 2013. He showed the ability to be the sort of player a team builds around. It’s a shame Chivas USA can’t do that now, as he’s headed back to the parent club.
On the other hand of the parent club, their decision to send woefully subpar players to the States hardly helped. Twice the club was stocked up with Mexican-based veterans, Mexican based subpar youngsters and a hashed together mix of American-based players. Both of those seasons ended in disaster.
As Vergara’s influence grew, so did the idea of a feeder club. Former coach Chelis spoke out against it due to how concerning the slide was. Needless to say, he’s no longer there.
It’s not just trades and incomings that are the issue. Vergara, the majority shareholder, left the club with a minimal playing budget. While the last MLS Cup final featured two teams on a limited budget, Chivas went to the extreme. With such little money, it’s hardly surprising the club was so shy of success.
The playing side of the club only scratches the surface. The real issues piled up off the pitch. In MLS, progress is hardly more apparent than when a team gets its own stadium, it’s seen as a huge move. With Chivas’ allergy of progress, it’s unsurprising that fans were promised their own stadium for ten years. We were still waiting to the day the franchise was rebranded.
The real issue was Jorge Vergara. He took full ownership in the late stages of 2012 and begun humiliating Chivas USA further. Not only did he increase the farm team idea, but he started his new ownership by promising an MLS Cup final in two years despite no strategy, money or intelligence.
To further make a mockery of his claim, the owner failed to have a TV contract for most of 2013 despite the league requirement. He openly bragged about attending their fixture in May 2013 against Real Salt Lake and never turned up.
He outdid himself however in a lawsuit. Teddy Chronopoulos and Dan Calichman filed a discrimination lawsuit before Cynthia Craig filed her own. The lawsuit opened up a culture at the club that was fixated on Hispanic representation at the cost of North American talent. In a North American league. You’d imagine a man with such embarrassment would own up to his mistakes. Instead, Vergara blamed his predecessors. It’s just easier.
With the franchise suffering yet more embarrassment, Major League Soccer purchased the franchise from the blundering Vergara and have begun the stages of rebranding and finding a stadium for the new team. Crucially, the team will remain in Los Angeles.
The decision to keep the club in L.A. shows a caring side towards a fanbase that has been ultimately neglected. While many can pour disdain and complain, most forget that the fans are the ones who have suffered. While this embarrassment is over for the league, the fans of Chivas USA have to wait for a new team and a new future. The future ahead is blurry to say the least, but for those long suffering fans, their Chivas USA logo, strip and identity will remain for one more season.