After last week's news bomb concerning MLS' acquisition of Chivas USA, the dust has yet to settle and many are left wondering what went wrong.
Former Galaxy and U.S. National Team coach Steve Sampson weighed in on the matter and opined that Chivas USA lost its way early on its short-lived history. He argued that Chivas USA lost its identity -- a common argument from other thinkers as well, namely soccer writers Paul Gardner of Soccer America and Eduard Cauich of Hoy Los Angeles.
Much went wrong in between the beginning and the end of Chivas USA. What the club, and apparently MLS, tried to do with the 2013 version of the Goats is what they should've done years ago. That is, they tried to go local but it was too late, or the ownership quit on the whole process (more on that later). There was always a splintering and lack of integration with the Chivas USA Academy, which finally came too late. There was, instead, a broken system. Sometime in between 2005 and 2013 the Chivas USA management squandered players like Luis Silva, Eric Avila, Omar Salgado (who had Chivas Guadalajara ties) and others. Heck, even Javier Hernandez was supposedly turned away.
There was no talent scout from this region, one who truly knew the talent in this area. That flew in the face of the all-too-late intention of going local. This was discussed in the past by everyday followers of the club -- typically not in the common narratives of the "soccer intelligentsia." Sometime in between 2005 and 2013 there was the questionable placement of former player Simon Elliott as head talent scout, for example.
The 2013 model was supposed to take time, as many as 3 years, to build on as former coach Jose Luis Real stated. It should've been implemented much sooner because obviously, MLS didn't have 3 years from the start of the 2013 season for Chivas USA to become its ideal self.
"If I want my kids to learn math, I don't just hire a lousy tutor who puts a calculator in front of them, I want the best tutor for them," said critic John Sandate aka "ELAC," on the What the Flock podcast in reference to the placement of Jose David as club president. I'll go one further and say that those lousy "math tutors," to use that analogy, were common at all points between 2005 and 2013. The club started to falter before 2013 and the further embarrassment of the allegations of racism. The club was already an embarrassment.
Starting a new team from nothing
What will become of the Chivas USA Academy? What's disappointing is that we never got to see the full potential of an integrated academy-to-first team model. MLS might as well seek an established club in the LA area that already has an academy, and buy its marks and brand to start a second pro side. Or they can come up with some catchy club name and look to buy or associate with youth academies like other pro sides have done. Will the (potential) new ownership bring the Chivas USA academy into the fold or let that system simply vanish, thus squandering that talent?
In conclusion, the wider consensus is simply that the Latino-heavy player squads, the focus on a supposed discriminatory policy, in 2005 and 2013 are what did this club in but that's not including the period of decline in between, particularly from 2009 and on. If it's true that MLS was making player changes as far back as two seasons ago, then the league is plenty to blame for sinking this ship. But it's not just that the league mismanaged Chivas. Ultimately, according to Don Garber, the Vergaras refused to put up the serious investment needed to make this club competitive, which meant building a stadium.
Some fans are right to feel betrayed given that the sale of Chivas USA cut a process short. The 2013 Chivas USA model should have been put into practice sooner, no later than the start of the 2010 MLS season. Many of us know all too well how Vergara has always been capricious, always sticking his nose in Guadalajara's matters and cutting processes short.
It's a bit baffling that Vergara quit on Chivas USA when Chivas de Guadalajara was recently listed as the most valuable soccer team on the American continent, north and south (Spanish) according to "Euroamericas Sport Marketing." Maybe money wasn't the issue for the ruptured relationship with MLS as much as all of the negativity surrounding the Chivas USA brand. So while we've heard all of the niceties from both parties after the MLS acquisition of the club, the real killer must've been the public damage that Vergara did to this club's image, and by proxy, to the league's image.
Under a better, smarter owner and management, the promise of Chivas USA would have become reality.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!