Chelís: Causing excitement in Chivatown. - Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Win or lose, the Goats are going to be fascinating to watch in 2013.
2012 record: 7-18-9
Optimistic Prediction: Making the playoffs in 2013.
Pessimistic Prediction: Finishing last in the Western Conference, and in the entire league, in 2013.
Chivas USA have endured a brutal three years, and after two overhauls of the coaching staff and roster in that span, the club is embarking on yet another rebuilding project. Obviously, few people could reasonably expect Robin Fraser to return as coach after leading the team from the edge of a playoff spot to a worst-ever winless streak in the span of three months, but the component the club desperately needs at this point - stability - is in short supply.
Still, the entire club has been overhauled once more this offseason, with Jorge Vergara and his wife Angelica Fuentes taking full ownership of the club, replacing practically all of the management, staff, coaches, and players. The big story is of course Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, known as Chelís, who is already the most quotable person in MLS. An experienced coach in Mexico, Chelís is the first head coach of Chivas USA to have prior head coaching experience before joining the Goats since Bob Bradley. Clearly, the track record of foreign coaches in MLS is not very good, but his arrival has energized the fan base.
As for personnel changes to the roster, the preseason has been dominated by talk in general MLS circles that Chivas USA is having a so-called "Gringo Fire Sale." Certainly, most of the players dumped one way or another have been non-Latino, and all of the players who have joined the club are Latino, but there have been countless incorrect assumptions about Chivas' roster rebuild. Rather than stock the lineup with 30 Mexican players, the players comprise multiple ethnicities, and a large proportion of the group expected to be on the roster by the weekend are American-born. On top of that, several non-Latino players remain on the roster, including All-Star goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. Will those players all be on the roster at the end of the season? That is unclear, but at the moment, Latinos and non-Latinos are co-existing on the team.
As for on-field performance, it is hard to see Chivas USA completely turn the ship around in a season. Add to that the fact that the club appears to be rebuilding on the cheap, with no big names joining the club, much to the chagrin of many fans, and it looks like 2005 redux is on the docket. However, Chelís appears to be building a siege mentality with his group of mostly young and inexperienced players. While the odds are certainly stacked against them, there is a chance this group could overachieve and surprise some folks around MLS. What constitutes success this year should remain modest, but a great accomplishment would be to make the playoffs. Either way, a club that seldom sees much attention outside of, well, this website should be a must-watch team in 2013.