Chivas USA – Throwing in the Towel?
It’s been about a month and a half since I’ve written a Chivas USA update here. So first things first, sorry about that. And hello. After a long stint of traveling in August, I thought I’d be back with a nice long post for you guys, talking about the team was finally coming together from the odd but interesting trade of Blair Gavin for Shalrie Joseph that happened at the end of July. And then August actually happened. September has turned into a continuation of the downward spiral of the most goals they’ve allowed in forever. Every time I sat down to write out an update or an opinion post, I came up with nothing cohesive. I’d always wondered how writers came up with great posts when their teams were going through a bad place, and couldn’t have considered it more the past few weeks. Part of it also comes from my inability to watch the games, and to actually see where the team is failing. The rest just comes from me throwing in the towel. Yes, I’ve admitted it early here. But with only 2 draws from 6 games, is there really any way up from here?
Probably not. I don’t really want to go into the logistics of these losses, except to say that it seems our offensive problems have trickled into the defense. Considering the only minutes I could stomach watching was a portion of the home 2-6 loss against Seattle a few weeks ago. And with only 8 games left of the regular season, all against teams that are making serious playoff pushes, I’m in the camp of doubt here. There really won’t be any way this team will make it into the playoffs. Sure, they are 9 points off a playoff spot and have the games to do it but with the way they’ve been playing? Doubtful.
In addition to the problems on the field, there are have been some crazy happenings off the field. It was announced that Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes, previously fifty percent owner of the team, had bought the rest of the shares of the squad from Antonia Cue. Rumors then followed in the next 48 hours that GM Jose Domene had been fired – first coming from the LA Times, and a small report from an unnamed player on the team, both stating that Domene had not been informed of this. I hadn’t even had time to let the news of Vergara taking over sink in before these rumors started, so crazy and insane is really the only way to describe the situation. Domene took to twitter, however, to say that he hadn’t been fired and still very much had his position with the team.
Now, besides seeing where the team ends up in the standings at the end of the season, fans of the team and MLS can it eagerly to see what happens off the field. There’s no question that there will be news and headlines about this team in the coming months. Our good friends at The Goat Parade have examined the possibilities and provided a great breakdown of what could happen. Here’s a little of my take on it too though (which, you will notice if you read TGP’s take, is very similar).
First, I was shocked that Vergara and Fuentes bought Cue’s shares. We all know that they’ve always placed a stronger emphasis on their team in Guadalajara and have left the US-based team as an after thought. Additionally, rumors have been swirling for months about Vergara’s lack of money and possible bankruptcy. When there were rumors of Chivas USA signing Raul in the early summer, it was basically known that it wouldn’t happen BECAUSE of Vergara’s lack of money. So, this buyout raises some flags for me on this alone. If he has no money, how will this team move forward at all? The lack of investment in players for this team has always been a sticking point for fans. Sure, this season some changes were made with bringing in some higher salaries (Califf, Agudelo, Joseph, continuing with Angel), but this team still doesn’t have the investment of others around the league. Sure, you can have teams that are successful on the field with minimal investment. However, that is obviously not the case for this one. Maybe it could lead to the dismissal of Robin Fraser?
Some fans have been calling for him to leave, and I’m not necessarily one of them. I was happy with his performance last season. Not at the end of it, of course, when the team basically imploded, but I thought he had made the necessary changes to build and go into this season strong. Since that has failed, I’m not really sure what I’d like to see on the coaching front. The team has proven to have more success with a consistent line-up, which they haven’t had in a while. So is a new coach the answer? Maybe and probably. I’m always reluctant to even think about new coaches, in any team I support, because it’s hard for me to imagine who would be the replacement. We all know Eric Wynalda will speak his mind on the subject should Fraser be fired, as he was one of the candidates that did not get hired when Fraser was selected (and has been a vocal opponent of many of Fraser’s decisions with this team). This is just another consideration with the way the team is looking right now and Vergara’s new influence.
The other big question here is the stadium and team identity. Let’s first start with the stadium. When I went on a tour of the Home Depot Center before a Chivas game back in July, some of us were told (after questioning an account guy) that the team was very adamant about moving to their own stadium and an announcement would be made this season. It’s well known that their rental agreement with AEG ends this season, and Chivas USA has no interest in continuing to rent. However, with the take over of the Vergaras, and possible money problems, would a new stadium be the right thing to do when there are a million other problems with the team? Some of their money problems are rooted in the new stadium they built for their Mexican team, which hasn’t seen the expected returns since it opened in 2010. A new stadium is something that I’m not even expecting to see anymore, to be quite honest. There are other things that need to be addressed first.
Now, team identity. Many fans around MLS have always been vocal in saying that Chivas USA need to rebrand and move away from the LA area. Well, Vergara is very adamant about staying in LA, and also keeping the Chivas brand. Whenever there were thoughts going around about rebranding or moving, it was always at the helm of Antonio Cue. He was the strongest advocate for it behind the scenes. With him gone now, it seems very unlikely that a rebrand will ever happen. Unless, of course, the Vergaras sell the team.
This is the biggest question mark and possibility we could see here. With money problems, and lack of prior interest, it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Vergaras to sell. It’s a consideration that many are thinking about, but not many are talking about. Obviously, there’s no point in seeing if the team is actually for sale without any rumors or ideas as to who would buy the team. But let’s consider this for a moment. The team is failing. Besides having a really amazing youth academy and developing some great players for the future, this team really hasn’t amounted to much. What incentive do the Vergaras have to continue with this team, or even MLS? Obviously, fans would be very much interested in someone coming in who would commit to the team and give us what we really want – success. But if someone came in who would move the team, what would happen then? Well I for one would probably not have an MLS team to support, which would very much decrease the support I give to this league in general. I try as much as I can to watch more than just Chivas USA games, and follow players and teams that are not my own, but there would be less fun in it if I didn’t have a team to support. That’s the basics of it, and I won’t go into any complexities there, as I don’t want to really consider where this will go.
So, that was a lot of information in a small dosage. This is what happens when I stop writing for a month and a half! After all that negativity, I will say there is one silver lining in all of this – a new forward line. Fraser has been playing with the formations up top with Juan Agudelo, Casey Townsend, and the recently returned Tristan Bowen. It was up in the air as to how Bowen would factor into the squad when he returned from loan in July, becoming another forward in our pile. However, he has been exactly what we needed up top. But, you know, since everyone else decided to fall apart, his play hasn’t brought about the attention it deserves. I’m glad Bowen is back and playing well, especially with Agudelo and Townsend. There probably isn’t much time left in the season for their chemistry to have a very strong impact, but if it can mean the difference between last place and say, 6th? I’m all for it.
I’m going to end this on that positive note, and leave a few more questions. How (and, to an extent, where) will this team move forward? Will we see investment, turnovers, sales, or all three? One thing I will hope for – a few more draws and wins. I emphasize draws because they are something achievable (but getting wins will obviously be welcomes). The team currently sits 1 point from last place in the West, above the Timbers, and 9 points off the last playoff spot. I’d very much not like to end up in last place, so the team needs to retain their “lead” on the Timbers. As for everything else, it really just remains to be seen.