Two straight weeks with wins have brought the Chivas USA U18 squad top of the table as they head into a bye week this weekend. A 1-0 win against conference rivals Real So Cal two weeks ago took the team to first place, with this past weekend's two games cementing their lead against main rivals LA Galaxy.
In their first match, they beat Strikers FC 2-0, with goals from Brendan Hines-Ike and Rene Santos. Midfielder Marco Delgado assisted both. However, all reports of the match point to an extremely sloppy performance, which the coaching staff will look to improve on. The team has this weekend off as they prepare for their own SuperClasico next weekend against the LA Galaxy U18 squad.
The U16 squad, however, has fared much differently with 2 draws in the past two weeks. A 1-1 draw against Real So Cal brought them to third in the standings, with another 3-3 draw against Strikers FC keeping them in that position. One bright spot in both games was forward Jorge Ruiz, who scored the lone goal in the match against Real So Cal and helped bolster a great comeback against Strikers FC. Ruiz scored a header to equalize right before half time in the game against Strikers. After going down 2 more goals, it seemed as if the team would suffer a loss. However, in the 70th minute, Ruiz scored off a free kick from 25 yards out. He then defeated two defenders and lobbed the ball over the goalie to score his third and the equalizer in stoppage time.
While both Academy teams were hard at work, the biggest news out of the academy this past week was that of Stevie Rodriguez signing with Club Xolos Tijuana in the FMF. This was seen as a huge blow not only to the Academy but also to the first team, who were looking at possibly signing Rodriguez to a Home Grown Contract. Originally from Cosmos Academy West, Rodriguez started in all four US U17 matches this past summer in their World Cup, which is said to be where Tijuana scouted him.
One of the benefits of him signing for Xolos is that he is eligible to play for four teams. As J.R. Eskilson of Top Drawer Soccer reports, Rodriguez qualifies for the U17s, U18s, the reserve team that plays in Mexico’s third division, and the first team. However, it seems that he will mainly play with the reserve team with the possibility of moving to the first team in the future.
Chivas USA Academy Director Teddy Chronopolous expressed to Eskilson the Academy’s understanding yet frustration with the situation, citing the many obstacles MLS has when it comes to signing Home Grown Players as the root of the frustration. He states that the club had plans to possibly sign Rodriguez to such a contract, but first needed to integrate him into the reserve team in order to get first team minutes.
While it remains to be seen how this affects the team and the Academy in the long run, it is obviously a blow to the U18s who have come to rely on Rodriguez and his talents. Additionally, the whole situation shows yet again the many complexities that exist within MLS Home Grown rules, and just how annoyingly difficult it is to work with such rules.