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Could this be a true make-or-break season for Chelís, and for Chivas USA for that matter?
Chivas USA coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, or "Chelis" as we all know him, does not have the best record when it comes to long term work as a head coach. He spent parts of four years in his first managerial job with Puebla, where he was sacked twice, and brought back each time. He then spent a year at Tecos, then half a season at Correcaminos before signing on as head coach of Chivas USA. Sure, a coach’s past does not necessarily dictate his future – however, I would not be surprised if Chelis’ tenure at Chivas USA is also short lived.
First of all, Chelis is now the ninth coach Chivas USA has had since its inception in 2005. While two of the coaches the team had were very brief after the departure of Thomas Rongen (Javier Ledesma and Hans Westerhof), they have a tendency to go through coaches at a record pace. Yes, Bob Bradley went on to better things, and no one was all too pleased with Martin Vasquez or Robin Fraser, but there has been no stability when it comes to Chivas USA’s coaching staff. Frankly, it has become commonplace to expect a new coach at the end of a season. The last time this team had success was in 2009 when they finished 4th in the Western conference. That season also marked the end of what I’ll call "stability" at the club. Once 2010 rolled around, it seemed to be upheaval after upheaval, whether it was key players moving on to better things (Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein), poor player acquisitions, or crazy owners doing crazy things (this could sum up everything that’s happened since the end of last season). Based on the track record, we know Jorge Vergara and the current regime are devoted to doing things on the cheap. He is supposedly shopping the team out, and maybe had an offer for it if it didn’t stay in L.A., but none of these rumors were confirmed. However, since the rumors do exist, and we know the team is trying to cut their expenses, it would be safe to say that this season means a lot.
If results end up as poorly as many of us are expecting them to be, I would not expect Chelis to continue on as coach. I foresee this season being make or break for Vergara and his camp. Running a sports team is not cheap for anyone, especially one that does not yield results. He would not want to continue running a sinking ship (and if he does then he really is as crazy as we think he is). If Chelis does not deliver, not only will he not continue on next season, but I would also guess that Vergara would push a lot harder to let go of his connections to Chivas USA. Whether that means selling the team and moving it out of L.A., or even the league stepping in and making the decision for him, something will change.
Now, should the season be a rousing success and shut us all up, well, then maybe Chelis will stay around after all. To his credit, he’s a smart guy and knows what he’s talking about. He’s upfront with the fans about his decisions and is not afraid to speak his mind. In that regard, fans love him. We get to hear from him every week and really understand what he wants from the players and the team. This could change once the season starts, but for now, I know we are all enjoying the ups and the downs of the team and what Chelis thinks of it. But again, I would only expect him to stay if there is success.
What is the measure of success? I would guess not last place in the West, for starters. Maybe that final spot in the playoffs, or just outside that position could even be the answer to that question. There was a chance that could have happened last season, though the way the current roster stands, it’s up in the air as to whether the team can even aspire to that this season.
He had mixed success in Mexico – started off really well with Puebla, where he saved the team from relegation and qualified them for the playoffs. However, his time with Tecos was not as successful and ended in the team’s relegation. So, we really get both ends of the spectrum here in terms of what to expect for the season. Will Chelis make his mark on MLS and keep his job at the end of the season? I’m going to take a jab and say no, we will not see Chelis past this season.
Do you agree? Where do you stand on Chelis and his position at the club? Let us know what you think!