When Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes took over full control of Chivas USA last fall, there were major questions about what the direction of the club would be moving forward. As we have seen, the administration and management was combined with Vergara and Fuentes' other club, Chivas de Guadalajara, the player profile on the first team is mostly Latino (though of multiple nationalities, including American), and the coach comes from Mexico but has transformed the team's playing style early on.
Among the numerous critiques of Chivas USA, one of them in the offseason was that Chivas USA was just a "farm team" for Chivas de Guadalajara. Since the Mexican club is far more important to the Vergaras' profile, the reasoning went, Chivas USA would be a training ground for the more important club. Although I wasn't sure that was the actual direction of the club, I tried to argue that the signs didn't indicate that was the case, since the team was keeping a fair number of non-Mexicans (who are, of course, ineligible to play for Chivas de Guadalajara), but it appears in part that I was wrong.
Zac Lee Rigg has written a pair of fascinating articles the past few days about the "project" taking place at Chivas USA. In talking with head coach Chelís, Rigg revealed on Goal.com that one task he has been given has been to find players in the United States to bring to Chivas de Guadalajara.
According to Rigg, Chelís' job is as follows:
When Jorge Vergara, who owns both Chivas clubs, hired Chelis, he gave the Mexican coach "three objectives that we look for in our organization," Chelis said.
One: to win matches. "The team is winning right now," Chelis said. Chivas USA is second in the Western Conference and is, despite a loss to the Colorado Rapids last week, one of the surprise stories of the nascent MLS season.
Two: to scout Latin American talent. This fits with the Goats' recent ideological reboot. Vergara and wife Angélica Fuentes bought out former partners the Cue brothers last season and promised a return to Chivas USA's Hispanic heritage.
"The prodigal son is coming back," Vergara said in Spanish in a November press conference. "The original idea of Chivas USA, we're going to achieve that."
Three: to develop players who "can log minutes in Mexico" for Chivas Guadalajara. The Liga MX side has a strict policy of only employing Mexican nationals on its roster. Any players making the jump from Los Angeles to Guadalajara would need a Mexican passport.
The player identified as a main target in that article is rookie midfielder Carlos Alvarez, born and raised in East LA to Mexican parents. Alvarez's father played in the Chivas de Guadalajara youth ranks, so there is a connection. Most fascinating is that Chelís estimates Alvarez will be on his way to Guadalajara to play for Chivas in a year.
For his part, Alvarez apparently didn't really publicly discuss his chances of moving to Liga MX with Rigg, although he did offer that he would be willing to play for either the U.S. or Mexico internationally. In many respects, both answers were pretty diplomatic from the rookie.
I'm of two minds on this story. On one hand, MLS is a league that endures constant turnover. While teams that maintain stability tend to be most successful, there's still considerable changes every year on every team. So to expect any roster to remain totally intact year upon year is foolhardy, even if Chivas could stand to keep some stability.
And if players are heading to teams in better leagues? That is an indirect goal of all MLS teams, and indeed, of the league itself. When players start their careers in MLS and then make the step up to a better league abroad, it improves the reputation of MLS. Just look at Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and even former Goats Sacha Kljestan and Brad Guzan. Frankly, if a Chivas USA player was able to make the move to Liga MX and get regular minutes there, it should be looked upon as an accomplishment for the club.
Nonetheless, having one of the priorities of the mission of Chivas USA to blood talent for Chivas de Guadalajara means that fundamentally, Chivas USA is being thought of as a farm team of the Mexican sister/mother club. I'm not stupid, I realize that Giovani Casillas, for example, won't be spending 10 years in MLS, and if he really develops here, he'll get shipped right back to Mexico. But for the club to be drafting players in MLS essentially so they can audition them for Chivas de Guadalajara means winning in MLS is not the same kind of priority it is for other teams in the league.
I know some Chivas USA fans have no problem with our Goats being a farm team. Whether that's because they are also Chivas de Guadalajara fans, or they don't mind seeing youngsters coming through before they make it really big, it's not exactly an "evil" strategy.
But those critiques from the haters have substance behind them. And really, is it fair for the Vergaras to treat an MLS club like a farm team? I could understand the objective more if they are playing in one of the lower divisions in the U.S., but on some level, it does seem like a shame for it to be taking place in the first division.
On top of that, it may go some way to explaining why the owners apparently have no interest in advertising their American product or providing Southern Californians with an opportunity to watch the team on TV. I mean, they are a feeder club for the real deal, after all, so why bother marketing in just the second largest media market in the United States? Why make an effort to promote the product, since the "real" product is in Guadalajara?
I have no idea if that's what the owners are thinking in regards to Chivas USA's nonexistent marketing and TV deal. But with no progress and no explanation, the dots add up, don't they?
What do you think? Leave a comment below!