Thought experiment: Are former Chivas USA players as bad as their collective reputation indicates?

None of these players from 2011 still play for Chivas USA. - Jamie Sabau

Are Chivas USA players coming from and going to "bad" leagues at a high rate?

Chivas USA have not been a very good team the past few years. That fact cannot be disputed. However, lately, as I've kept tabs on what recent former Chivas USA players have been doing, I've wondered if the signings in recent years, many of whom have come and gone at a rapid rate, tells us much regarding the general quality of the players who have come in.

Of course, thinking about what league a player played in before or after playing for the Goats is not objective. Great players may go because they are retiring, or because of personal reasons. Maybe they left because they wanted to -- maybe they wanted to stay but weren't able to. And there are no good ways to really determine which leagues are better than others. Is it better to be in a third-rate European league or a second-rate South American one? What about a first-rate Central American league? And what's the gulf in quality between the three pro American leagues? Sorry, I'm not going to make those judgment calls here.

Still, in what may be the nerdiest thing I've ever written on here, I present the work I've cobbled together of late. I've examined all of the players who have played for Chivas USA from 2011-13. I picked those years because there's an archive of information on those players on this website, and because most of them are still playing and in their prime playing years. I did not include players who were signed after the 2013 season, since they (or nearly all of them) currently play for the Goats, and I didn't want to skew the current numbers.

Here's a table of all the players who fit under the timeline (remember, 2011-13 with CUSA):

Name Club prior to Chivas USA (league) Time with CUSA Club after CUSA (league) Current club (league)/status
Juan Agudelo New York Red Bulls (MLS) 2012-13 New England Revolution (MLS) FC Utrecht (Eredivisie), on loan from Stoke City (EPL)
Carlos Alvarez Amateur, UConn (NCAA) 2013-present
Juan Pablo Angel LA Galaxy (MLS) 2011-12 Atletico Nacional (Colombian 1st div) Atletico Nacional
Daniel Antunez FC Inter Turku (Finnish 1st div) 2013 Arizona United SC (USL PRO) Arizona United
Eric Avila Toronto FC, via Colorado Rapids (MLS) 2013-present
Carlos Bocanegra Racing Santander (Spanish 2nd div), via Rangers (Scottish 3rd div) 2013-present
Miller Bolanos LDU Quito (Ecuadorian 1st div) 2012-13 Emelec (Ecuadorian 1st div) Emelec
Carlos Borja Los Angeles Blues (USL PRO) 2013-14 Free agent
Tristan Bowen LA Galaxy (MLS) 2011-2013 Seattle Sounders (MLS) Seattle Sounders
Andrew Boyens New York Red Bulls (MLS) 2011 LA Galaxy (MLS) Retired, LA Galaxy Academy coach
Justin Braun Amateur 2008-11 Montreal Impact (MLS) Sacramento Republic (USL PRO)
Bobby Burling San Jose Earthquakes, via Montreal Impact (MLS) 2012-present
Danny Califf Philadelphia Union (MLS) 2012 Toronto FC (MLS) Retired
Paolo Cardozo LA Galaxy (MLS) 2012 Cartagines (Costa Rican 1st div) Cartagines
Giovani Casillas Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) 2013 Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) Chiapas FC, on loan from Chivas (Liga MX)
Jimmy Conrad Kansas City Wizards (MLS) 2011 Retired Media personality
Jose Correa Boyaca Chico (Colombian 1st div) 2012-present Loan: Gimnasia La Plata (Argentine 1st div) Loan: Gimnasia
Chris Cortez Amateur 2011 LA Blues (USL PRO) Orange County Blues (USL PRO)
Laurent Courtois Grenoble (French 2nd div) 2011-13 LA Galaxy (MLS) LA Galaxy II (USL PRO)
Bryan de la Fuente Free agent, via Chivas USA U-23s 2013 Free agent
Mario de Luna Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) 2013 Puebla, on loan from Chivas de Gdl (Liga MX) Puebla
Marky Delgado Amateur, via Chivas USA Academy 2011-present
Simon Elliott Wellington Phoenix (A-League) 2011 Retired
Victor Estupinan LDU Quito (Ecuadorian 1st div) 2011 Universidad Catolica (Ecuadorian 1st div) Deportivo Quito (Ecuadorian 1st div)
Gabriel Farfan Philadelphia Union (MLS) 2013-present Loan: Chiapas FC (Liga MX) Loan: Chiapas FC
Jaime Frias Chivas de Guadalajara Academy 2013 Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) Indy Eleven (NASL)
Blair Gavin Amateur, Akron University (NCAA) 2010-12 New England Revolution (MLS) Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL)
Scott Gordon Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) 2012 Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Marvin Iraheta New York Cosmos Academy 2012-13 Chivas USA U-23 (amateur) Chivas USA U-23
Ante Jazic LA Galaxy (MLS) 2009-12 Retired
Shalrie Joseph New England Revolution (MLS) 2012 Seattle Sounders (MLS) New England Revolution (MLS)
Dan Kennedy Municipal Iquique (Chilean 1st div) 2008-present
Nick LaBrocca Toronto FC (MLS) 2011-12 Colorado Rapids (MLS) Colorado Rapids
Michael Lahoud Amateur, Wake Forest (NCAA) 2009-12 Philadelphia Union (MLS) Philadelphia Union
David Junior Lopes Universitatea Craiova (Romanian 1st div) 2011-12 LA Galaxy (MLS) Free agent
Gerson Mayen Amateur, via Chivas USA Academy 2008-11 Los Angeles Misioneros (USL PDL) FAS (Salvadorian 1st div)
Rauwshan McKenzie Real Salt Lake (MLS) 2012 Portland Timbers (MLS) Portland Timbers
Patrick McLain Amateur, Cal Poly (NCAA) 2012-13 Orange County Blues (USL PRO) OC Blues
Edgar Mejia Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) 2013 Puebla, on loan from Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) Puebla
Tim Melia Real Salt Lake (MLS) 2012-present
Francisco Mendoza Indios de Ciudad Juarez, on loan from Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) 2011 Santos de Guapiles (Costa Rica 1st div) Delfines FC (Ascenso MX)
Oswaldo Minda Deportivo Quito (Ecuadorian 1st div) 2012-present
Marcos Mondaini Centro Atletico Fenix (Uruguayan 1st div) 2011 Emelec (Ecuadorian 1st div) Emelec
Julio Morales Chivas de Guadalajara Academy 2013 Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) Chivas de Guadalajara
Paulo Nagamura Tigres UANL (Liga MX) 2010-11 Sporting Kansas City (MLS) Sporting KC
Emilio Orozco Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL), on loan from Tigres UANL (Liga MX) 2013 Free agent
Seth Owusu 2011 Golden Arrows (South African 1st div) Golden Arrows
Heath Pearce FC Dallas (MLS) 2011-12 New York Red Bulls (MLS) Montreal Impact (MLS)
Martin Ponce Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) 2013 Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) Unknown
Steve Purdy Portland Timbers (MLS) 2013 Free agent
James Riley Seattle Sounders, via Montreal Impact (MLS) 2012 D.C. United (MLS) LA Galaxy (MLS)
Jose Manuel Rivera RoPS (Finnish 2nd division) 2013 Free agent
Cesar Romero Tijuana Revolucion (Professional Arena Soccer League) 2012 Free agent
Ryan Smith Sporting Kansas City (MLS) 2012 Skoda Xanthi (Greek Super League) Free agent
Josue Soto San Antonio Scorpions (NASL), on loan from Houston Dynamo (MLS) 2013 San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) San Antonio Scorpions
Zach Thornton New York Red Bulls (MLS) 2008-11 Retired College coach
Erick Torres Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX) 2013-present
Casey Townsend Amateur, Maryland (NCAA) 2012 D.C. United (MLS) Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL)
Mariano Trujillo Atlante (Liga MX) 2009-11 Jaguares de Chiapas (Liga MX) Retired, media personality
Michael Umana Liberia Mia (Costa Rican 1st division) 2010-11 Comunicaciones (Guatemalan 1st division) Saprissa (Costa Rican 1st division)
Peter Vagenas Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS) 2012 Retired Academy director, LA Galaxy
John Valencia Atletico Junior (Colombian 1st division) 2012 Deportes Tolima (Colombian 1st division) Deportes Tolima
Zarek Valentin Amateur, Akron (NCAA) 2011 Montreal Impact (MLS) Bodo/Glimt (Norwegian 1st division)
Joaquin Velazquez Free agent; last played for Puebla (Liga MX) 2013 Free agent/retired
Walter Vilchez Sporting Cristal (Peruvian 1st division) 2013 UTC (Peruvian 1st division) UTC
Jorge Villafana Amateur 2007-13 Portland Timbers (MLS) Portland Timbers
Ben Zemanski Amateur, Akron (NCAA) 2010-12 Portland Timbers (MLS) Portland Timbers
Caleb Calvert Amateur, via Chivas USA Academy 2013-present

Carlo Chueca R.A.E.C. Mons (Belgian 1st division) 2013 Free agent
Alejandro Moreno Philadelphia Union (MLS) 2011-12 Retired Media personality

It's interesting looking at all that information, isn't it? Well, if you are still with me, you probably think so. Let's look at some breakdowns of players whereabouts before and after Chivas.

First, let's see where the U.S.-based players came from before Chivas:

Graph_medium

Contrary to the idea that Chivas didn't really look to MLS to pick up players, the statistics indicate otherwise. Of course, breaking down the comparisons between the Robin Fraser era and the Chelís/Real era could prove illuminating, but that's some nerdery for another time.

Besides the strong MLS connection, the USL connection is very weak, which was a surprise to me. It feels like Chivas are signing players from that league all the time, but in fact, that has been a very recent phenomenon, not even one that stretches back the past three years.

Let's see where CUSA players came from before joining the club outside of the United States:

Graph-2_medium

This graph is no surprise at all, really. The overwhelming majority of players coming in from abroad have come from Latin America, with Mexico alone accounting for close to half of the total.

Ok, so for the players who moved on, where did they go right after Chivas? Let's look at this graph:

Graph-3_medium

Again, MLS dominates by a substantial margin, with the combined category of free agents and retired players coming up next. On a macro level, what does that tell us? A substantial portion of players who moved on were coveted by MLS teams, while a smaller but still substantial portion of players either retired or had difficulty even finding a new club. Basically, the trends diverge, with Latin America overall being the third main choice for players.

Ok, so what's the picture today? Are all the players dropping into the lower leagues? Retiring or having trouble latching onto a new team?

Graph-4_medium

The same divergent path manifests itself, with CUSA and the rest of MLS combined edging out free agents and retired players for most popular "destination." However, in the interim, the rise of more teams and more infrastructure poured into American lower league soccer has probably given former Goats a chance to play there, as there has been a spike in the number of players in USL PRO and NASL.

In case you are wondering what the breakdown between current free agents and retired players is, it's basically split down the middle:

Graph-5_medium

We tend to look at the career path for players of a certain team on an individual level, and for good reason. There is context surrounding every player's move, both in and out of the club, whenever that happened. These numbers aren't meant to make any sweeping statements about the quality of players, but it is interesting that despite Chivas' status near the very bottom of the league standings the last three years, they still have a fair number of players who make their way in MLS as well as other decent leagues around the world and indicates the players themselves can't bear the full brunt of criticism of on-field performance of late.

Of course, we know that, what with the frequent coaching changes and the constant front office and ownership turmoil. But it's worth reinforcing the notion that given more stability at the club, CUSA teams in recent years may not have been title contenders, but they likely would have been better than what we witnessed. In that respect, consider this piece a plea to the next owners to have a good plan and to make stability (while building for positive improvement) a hallmark of their plan for the team. A little TLC could go farther than one might think.

And it's worth noting that these figures haven't been compared to other MLS teams roster turnover and leagues before and after playing for their teams. I'd love to see some comparisons, but there are only so many hours in the day, and I don't have the same knowledge base of other teams. Maybe some other nerdy souls will make similar investigations at some point.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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