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Chivas USA: A Decade Of Ups And Downs

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(Image courtesy of www.latinorebels.com)
(Image courtesy of www.latinorebels.com)


LOS ANGELES — Chivas USA also known as Club Deportivo Chivas USA was the 11th addition of the MLS originally intended to be the “Little Brother” or “Sister Club” of it’s Mexican relative, Club Deportivo Guadalajara.

The short history of Chivas USA doesn’t start in 2004 believe it or not. In 2002, Guadalajara native and self-made entrepreneur and owner of the dietary supplement company, Omnilife, Jorge Vergara, purchased Club Deportivo Guadalajara, after the former owners, La Promotora, sold the club to Vergara for an undisclosed fee.

Vergara’s goal was to expand the club name in as many ways as he possibly could.

The first move he made was first stripping the Club’s Kit Sponsors and hiring a board of business directors to capitalize on expanding the “Las Chivas” brand. Vergara made a move by first by creating the club’s own magazine, putting the name on Toothbrushes and soon even creating the club’s own soft drink, but Vergara didn’t stop there.

Image courtesy of latinpost.com

2003:  Vergara was spotted at the annual MLS All-Star Game that was played at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, California. While sitting in on a pre-game press conference Vergara boldly announced that he wanted to expand the Chivas brand to Major League Soccer.

2004: Chivas USA was born. Founded on August 2, 2004, Chivas USA would become the 11th addition of Major League Soccer along with Salt Lake City-based club, Real Salt Lake, the club would then be owned by Antonio and Lorenzo Cué while Vergara would over see the club on the advisory board.

2005: The  club’s inaugural season began playing at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, California under the leadership of the club’s first manager Thomas Rongen. In the club’s first match, Chivas fell short against then MLS Cup champion DC United  (2-0). They would then go on to a 1-8-1 record. (The club’s first win was against fellow expansion team, Real Salt Lake).

Rongen would later be named Chivas USA’s Sporting Director and Assistant Manager Javier Ledesma became the club’s interim Manager. On June 3, 2005, Hans Westerhof was named Chivas USA’s second Manager.

After a disappointing 2005 campaign, Westerhof would not return the following season.

2006Chivas hired Bob Bradley, freshly sacked from the New York Metro Stars (Presently known as the New York Red Bulls) Chivas would soon capitalize in their 2006 campaign going to a 10-9-13 record under the leadership of the Bradley. The club would then make the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time.

Chivas would play in the Western Conference Semifinals but would fall to the Houston Dynamo (2-3).

Bob Bradley would soon be named the MLS Coach of the Year in the club’s 2006 campaign. Bradley would soon be named the interim head coach of the United States Men’s National Football Team by the US Soccer federation for the coming Beijing Olympics. Chivas USA would soon replace Bradley with the club’s 4th manager,  Predrag “Preki” Radosavljevic.

2007: Under the leadership of Radosavljevic, Chivas USA would have it’s most successful season in the club’s Major League Soccer Campaign. Preki would lead the “Goats” (Chivas means goats in Spanish) to a 15-7-8 record finishing top of the Western Conference table and becoming the Western Conference regular-season champions. Other achievements included the Major League Soccer Supporter’s Shield Runner Ups.

The Honda SuperClasico also known as the LA Derby, the annual cross-town rivalry between Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy. goalkeeper Brad Guzan was named MLS Goal Keeper of the Year and Radosavljevic named the MLS Coach of the Year, signed a long-term deal after a successful first campaign with the club.

In terms of the MLS Cup Playoffs Chivas would only see the conference semifinals falling to the Kansas City Wizards–presently known as Sporting Kansas City, would eventually fall to the Houston Dynamo in the Conference Finals.

In the end of the year Chivas USA would qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time.

2008:  Chivas USA competed in their first official international tournament along with the CONCACAF Champions League, playing Mexican side Pachuca in the 2008 SuperLiga and in the CONCACAF Champions League. Chivas made it to the preliminary round and fell against Panama side Tauro.

Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan were named to the MLS All-Star Team. Goalie Brad Guzan became the first Goat to transfer to a European first division club. The Red-and-White clinched a playoff berth  for the third consecutive season with a 12-11-7 record finishing 2nd in the MLS Western Conference they would go on to lose to Real Salt Lake in the Conference Semifinals.

2009: Chivas finished their ’09 Campaign 4th in the Western Conference and clinched a Wild Card birth in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

They would then face local rival, Los Angeles, in the Western Conference Semifinals and fall (3-0 on aggregate).  Bornstein and Kljestan competed with the U.S. National Team in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton was named to the ­2009 MLS All-Star Team. Chivas USA announced the Team Award Winners, naming Thornton the team’s Most Valuable Player. Thornton was also named the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and MLS Comeback Player of the Year, and he was nominated to the MLS Best XI.

2010-2014: Troubling times plague the Red and White: 

2010: The 2010 Campaign didn’t begin the way Chivas executives wanted with the departure of Radosavljevic, as he left the club after signing a deal with the Toronto F.C..  Martín Vásquez was named the club’s Manager after serving as an Assistant Manager from 2005-2007.

Kljestan and Bornstein were named co-captains for the 2010 season. During the World Cup break, Kljestan signed a deal with Belgian club Anderlecht being the second Chivas USA player to go the Europe. After leaving Chivas USA after parts of five seasons. Bornstein would then play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, starting in two matches for the United States as they made it to the Round of 16.

On October 27, the team released Manager Martín Vásquez after finishing last in the Western Conference with a 8-18-4 record. On November 2, president and CEO Shawn Hunter announced he was stepping down. On December 14 the club’s vice president of soccer operations, Stephen Hamilton revealed he would also leave his post. Both he and Hunter would continue to serve in advisory roles for the club. After Hamilton stepped down, Jose L Domene was named Interim General Manager.

On January 4, 2011, Robin Fraser became the next Manager for the Club coming into their 2011 campaign

2011: On January 4, 2011, Robin Fraser became the new Manager of Chivas USA. Chivas would again have a disappointing season with a 8-14-12 record finishing second to last in the Western Conference Table. The club placed just above the Vancouver White Caps a “Promotion Team” originally in the North American Soccer League (NASL) Fraser wouldn’t return the next season. José Luis Sánchez Solá would take the managing post for Chivas in the 2013 Season.

2012:  Proved to be yet again another unsuccessful year for the MLS side in August of 2012 Vergara felt it would be in the best interest to buy the club and find ways to turn the tides around for the club. Vergara then bought the club on the 26th for an undisclosed fee in a co-ownership with his wife, Angélica Fuentes. The couple bought the club from former owners Antonio and Lorenzo Cué. Chivas would finish the season with a record of 7-18-9 finishing last in the Western Conference table.

2013:  In 2013 Chivas would again finish at the bottom of the Western Conference table with a 6-20-8 record, Manager Solá would be sacked on May 29th and then replaced by José Luis Real. Ironically, the same day a lawsuit was filed against Jorge Vergara by dismissed non-Latino youth coaches Dan Calichman and Ted Chronopoulos, shortly after the acquisition Vergara was alleged to have told his staff that those who did not speak Spanish would be fired, with Jose David, the team’s new president and chief business officer, asking Chronopoulos for a list of youth players and coaches who were Mexican or Mexican-American and of those that weren’t. 

The lawsuit was the subject of the lead segment of the July 23, 2013, broadcast of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. After the release of Preki, Chivas USA have failed to stay consistent on and off the pitch, just like its parent club, CD Guadalajara, Chivas USA have had four coaches since the start of the 2010 season in which all four coaches failed to impress Vergara.

Manager José Luis Real was then sacked at the end of the year.

2014:  In February, Vergara decided to abandon the Chivas USA project saying “The Chivas USA concept did not work out,” in a a radio interview with Jorge Ramos y Su Banda . On February 20th, Vergara would sell Chivas USA to the MLS. The MLS then said that they would look for new owners before the 2015 Season. Currently as of 9/20/2014 Chivas is last in the Western Conference without new owners and could possibly not be in MLS contention for the 2015 Season.

So what is next for Chivas USA?

One thing we can obviously point out that Vergara’s attempt to spread the Chivas brand didn’t go as well as he originally planned.  The sad thing is even in his current position with CD Guadalajara the club has only won a trophy during his reign as the owner of the club.

And not only that he has went through 15-plus managers since he became the owner of the club. And in terms of Chivas USA, after he bought the club in 2012 he has hired four different managers to lead his club. And some of the managers he hired for were former managers from CD Guadalajara!

The MLS has a goal of reviving Chivas USA but in terms of the current state of the club. There are few ways they can rebuild Chivas USA.

A few MLS Club’s do have their reserve teams in the USL Pro. For instance the Los Angeles Galaxy II. If the MLS doesn’t find an owner within the next few months they shouldn’t abandon the project altogether. One of the big things when it comes to soccer in North America is the fact that’s rapidly growing every year.

If Chivas USA became a member of the USL Pro or NASL for a season or two it would benefit both Major League Soccer and the other league. Chivas has a decent following in LA and through out the west coast. If they continued to play under a new manager. Especially an experienced manager.

One manager that is up and coming would be Manny Lagos the current Manager of the Minnesota United Football Club. His resume includes a NASL Cup and an NASL Spring Season Championship. He has also had MLS experience as player of the New York MetroStars (Presently known as the New York Redbulls). Lagos would be the perfect candidate for the managing job at Chivas USA.

Here is a quick list on how the MLS can revive Chivas USA:

1. Sell the club to a prospective buyer who would want to keep the club in Los Angeles and has enough money to sign a few world class players (Have the NYCFC and Orlando City mentality).

2. Hire a manager that has experience building a North American Soccer Team.

3. Rally the supporters! Chivas USA’s official Supporters Club is the Union Ultras and by the looks of the club’s site it doesn’t look like much has happened for the Union Ultra’s. The answer to this. Is start a mass promotion campaign.

4. Build a new tradition. (Football Teams around the world have their own traditions why not start something new?)

5. Revive the Club’s ties to CD Guadalajara.

In Conclusion. Chivas USA has a lot of potential to be a top contender in Major League Soccer again. But it’s going to take new leadership, strong supporters, and a committed coaching staff to lead this club to victory once.  Again, in life we all go through times of hardship but we find innovative ways to get back on top.

If you are new to following Major League Soccer you should definitely follow Chivas USA they have the potential to be a great club again. The question is what’s next?

Here is a few links that may be helpful to learn more about Chivas USA

 Chivas USA’s Official Club Website: http://www.cdchivasusa.com/

Chivas USA’s Supporter’s Club Official Website “The Union Ultra’s” : http://www.unionultras.com/index.php


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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