Welcome back to our roundtable series! Today, for the second entry, we discuss Chivas USA's player moves this offseason. In addition to the usual crew of myself, Matthew Hoffman, and Rachna Kapur, we welcome Glyconerd from "What the Flock?!" to discuss this week's topic at hand.
Alicia Rodriguez: So, here's the question(s) to get us started: What do you make of the offseason player changes so far for Chivas USA? Has it been practical? Racist? Something else?
Matthew Hoffman: Chivas USA's 2012 was statistically the worst MLS has seen in almost ten years. As the famous philosopher Roger Daltry said, "the change it had to come, we knew it all along."
The most important offseason change was bringing in El Chelis. He has been a sorely needed shot in the arm.
The team needed to get younger. It's one thing to post poor results when you are bringing together a young core. However only a handful of players under 25 (Jorge Villafana, Miller Bolanos, Juan Agudelo) actually received ample first team action. Jettisoning the older veterans was a necessary and important move.
At the moment, I'm willing to give the team a B-. I don't like that they released Rauwshan McKenzie and traded Casey Townsend for a measly second round pick. The fact that they haven't dealt with Shalrie Joseph is getting downright absurd.
However if a year from now they are overhauling the squad once again, I reserve the right to change the grade to an F. Running a team is not like an etch-a-sketch where you can shake it up and start all over again. At some point there needs to be a three-year-plan that needs to be stuck to.
Rachna Kapur: I was thinking of how I wanted to respond to this question, and then the Ben Zemanski news broke. The rights for Jonathan Bornstein? I know he's basically doing nothing in Mexico but will he really come back to MLS?
To be quite honest, my entire reaction is WTF. That may not be the most professional approach to this, but I have no other response. I understand wanting to offload the higher salaries (Angel, Moreno, Califf, Joseph), but the other trades have made little sense to me. I agree with Matt in that you can't just change the team/squad every time you go out there. You also can't expect to change up the entire team at the end of the season. It doesn't work like that. Aside from the sentiments about race, offloading so many players and bringing in so many fresh ones (how many of these guys have played in MLS before?) just doesn't bode well in any capacity.
On a personal note, all the players that drew me to support this team have gone, and while you don't select a team because of the players, many of the other decisions this team is currently making have me questioning why I support them to begin with. I don't mean to go all Negative Nancy here, but the offseason player changes ARE making me question why I like this team. I would like to know just why guys like McKenzie, Townsend, and Zemanski are gone. Chelis has been very vocal about why guys like Joseph and Califf were let go. But when it comes to these guys who have small salaries and, to our knowledge, have been committed to the team and game plan, we haven't gotten a clear answer. Because of this, many detractors of the team HAVE said it's because of race. The team isn't doing itself any favors with anything they've done this offseason, and I'm not sure it will as the season begins.
Glyconerd: I agree with Matt, the most important offseason change has been bringing in El Chelis. He may not be familiar with the intricate rules of Major League Soccer or speak English fluently but what he does have is the players' respect and attention. Beyond the preseason results, I've picked up a renewed sense of purpose from the team during
scrimmages, even the warm up drills have a different intensity.
These wholesale changes have also brought on uncertainty. Player trades and new signings have been a constant at Chivas USA. Which leads me to ask, who exactly is making the bonehead decision to give away two solid MLS players for a bag of magic beans?
I'm assuming Dennis Te Klose will have a hand in luring Jonathan Bornstein back to MLS from his Mexican vacation. You just don't give up one of your best players for the long shot at signing an inactive player.
Alicia Rodriguez: It's fitting that we decided to discuss this topic on a week when two solid players were traded away. Given the fact that neither Zemanski or Riley is Latino, and were dumped for relatively little (especially Riley, who was seriously traded for nothing) race has to have an impact on what we are seeing here. By my count, Chivas USA currently retain six non-Latino players, three of whom are goalkeepers. The roster has been almost entirely culled of players who are not Latino, and it is clear that is no coincidence, since the proportion of non-Latino players to Latino players who have departed is significant, in addition to the fact that every single player brought in this preseason is Latino. Race unquestionably is a major factor here.
The follow-up question, and the one that is perhaps more important to Chivas USA fans (if not necessarily fans of other teams) is whether the policy is fair. As all of you have noted, if this doesn't work, and if the team is bad again, the overhaul will be a failure. If they have found the right combination of hungry and largely young players who can usher a turnaround in Chivas' on-field fortunes, great! The club will have stuck it to everybody, including skeptical fans. But if they engage in a racial-preference policy and then fail to improve, the league, and all of the non-Latino players, are going to consider it just desserts. The siege mentality being built can be powerful, but it can also be powerful in the hands of those against it.
As I've been saying since Jorge Vergara's press conference in November, as long as this team wins, I don't care who is on it. We are nearly at the stage where we can see if the club's moves will pay off, and I am eager to see what happens. Let's hope this inexperienced group can hit the ground running March 2nd, and for the rest of the season.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!