MLS Call Time On Chivas USA Experiment

Gone but not forgotten - Chivas USA (Image from Getty)Ten years after its inception, Chivas USA are no longer. As a subsidiary of Mexican club C.D Guadalajara, Chivas were seen as the perfect way to appease the strong growing latino community in California.  Forged in 2005 in Carson, a small suburb of Los Angeles, Chivas was the eleventh team to enter the MLS and was intended on being a nurturing ground for talent born out of Guadalajara. The experiment started slowly so when Chivas appeared to be making progress in the 2006 season under the management of Bob Bradley, the fans celebrated believing this was the beginning of something. It would turn out to be a false dawn with Chivas reaching the Western Conference play offs in style which in the end would be their best performance. After Bradley left to take charge of the US men’s national team, Chivas went into freefall and with attendances dropping and turmoil both on and off the field; the decision was made to call time on the experiment with Chivas becoming the third MLS team after Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny to fold.

Under Bradley, Chivas had its most successful season  (Image from MLS)

Under Bradley, Chivas had its most successful season
(Image from MLS)

Playing second fiddle to the Los Angeles Galaxy with whom they shared a stadium was always going to be a challenge but given the population of America’s second biggest city and its diverse mix of residents, it was believed that there was enough passion in the city for two teams to survive. However as LA Galaxy evolved to become one of the most decorated clubs in the league, pulling in marquee signings like David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, Chivas struggled day after day to keep up eventually falling behind to their now more popular landlords. Galaxy’s nine year head start did not help things so it was always going to be an uphill struggle for Chivas. Having now folded at the end of the 2014 season, Chivas will be picked apart slowly with all of its assets stripped out and taken by other clubs. The players will be split into two groups – those still under contract will be distributed to other teams by way of a dispersal draft in November whilst the players out of contract will be left to their own devices. Captain Carlos Bocanegra has already admitted he is calling time on his career whilst star player Erick Torres is likely to return to Mexico with parent club Guadalajara unless an MLS club snaps him up. Manager Wilmer Cabrera would like to stay in the US as a head coach but with only one position vacant at the Houston Dynamo’s, he may not get that opportunity.

Star player Erick Torres is likely to be homeward bound  (Image from Getty)

Star player Erick Torres is likely to be homeward bound
(Image from Getty)

As for the club itself, the name and brand will disappear in the MLS archives, with the only record of the clubs existence listed in the history books. It is expected that an announcement will be made today by the MLS about a new LA based franchise due to launch in the 2017 season. The new club will be owned by an investor group lead by Vietnamese-American businessman Henry Nguyen, alongside several minority partners like Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan and LA Dodgers co owner Peter Guber. Many believe that the slot should be given to a city that currently doesn’t have a team like Las Vegas (as reported in a previous blog post) but Commissioner Don Garber appears set to hand Los Angeles a second chance to prove it can support two teams. Core mistakes were made by both the MLS and by the Chivas owners during its ten year residency in the league that must not be made again. However with the league now coming up to its 20th year, it is now a much slicker and well run organization than ever before. It has expanded beyond its original boundaries and continues to develop with a further three teams (Orlando City, New York City FC and Atlanta) joining in the upcoming seasons. LA will get its second side and another chance to show that it is a soccer mad city. The ghost of Chivas USA may still live in the city of Angeles for some time to come but in its passing a new dawn is emerging for LA and its soccer loving residents.

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Erick Torres Planning On Taking The World By Storm

On Fire: Erick Torres (Image from Getty)Mexico’s surprise win at last year’s Olympic Games highlighted a new batch of Mexican players about to take the football world by storm. Players like Marco Fabian, Nestor Araujo, Raul Jimenez and Jorge Enríquez all made a name for themselves at the Games and have attracted interest from clubs across the globe. But one player who didn’t make the squad is now blazing his own path in a quest to make himself known to the world and is doing a good job of it too. Erick Torres exploits on loan for Chivas USA have been nothing short of breathtaking and is starting to attract the gaze of foreign scouts from Europe’s biggest clubs. The young striker has been compared recently to another Mexican striker, Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez due to their similarity in their style of playing and his rapid success months after his debut. Like Hernandez, Torres is bursting with energy and lethal in the penalty box, making him one of the brightest prospects in Mexican football. Possessing an abundance of pace and flair as well as incredible close control, Torres looks set to become one of the worlds’s most feared strikers.

Follow my lead: Javier Hernandez leads the way  (Image from Getty)

Follow my lead: Javier Hernandez leads the way
(Image from Getty)

Born in Guadalajara, it seemed only right that Torres first club would be that of his home town. After starting in the youth teams, Torres was quickly promoted in 2010 to the first team as one of the most promising youngsters the club has ever produced. He made his official debut in the Mexican Primera División in November of that year against C.F. Monterrey, and marked his appearance in style with a debut goal which helped to salvage a point. That season he ended with 6 goals from 20 appearances including a stunning brace against Querétaro in March 2011 and a debut Super Clasico goal against arch-rivals América in a stunning 3-0 victory. The following season, Torres led the line for Guadalajara alongside Marco Fabian, finishing the season with 7 goals from 20 appearances. This form persuaded Chivas USA in the MLS to arrange a season long loan deal for the player, which has already started to pay dividends. Torres made his debut against Toronto and in usual Torres style marked it with the winning goal. He has continued in that vein with another 5 strikes in his last 6 games including a brace last Sunday against Vancouver. His first goal in that match highlighted the skill and talent he possesses as he scored with a stunning bicycle kick from the edge of the area, perfectly executed and simply unstoppable.

Torres scores against Seattle  (Image from Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

Torres scores against Seattle earlier this season
(Image from Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite his young age, Torres has already had success at international level at various levels, first captaining Mexico’s under 17 squad at the 2010 Milk Cup in Northern Ireland, before moving on to join Mexico’s Under 20’s squad at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup where he helped Mexico to a third place finish. Despite missing out on a place in the Olympic squad, Torres has his heart set on making his full senior debut for Mexico in the not so distant future. With Mexico lying third in the CONCACAF group behind the USA and Costa Rica with four games left to play, Torres may get his shot, especially if his form for Chivas continues.

To see Torres bicycle kick, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6gIrl4r3R0

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Chivas End Cruyff Experiment

Johan Cruyff's mexican stay has endedJohan Cruyff’s hiring in February of this year as special consultant to FC Chivas de Guadalajara in the Mexican league was seen by many as a pr stunt. His job was never quite articulated so many wondered what the former dutch internationalist would be doing day-to-day and with little to no connection to Chivas before the appointment, why he was going in the first place. Cruyff was not lacking opportunities with both Liverpool and Tottenham apparently keen on hiring him as director of football. Neither did in the end, but Cruyff’s next role, at the age of 65 was more likely to be closer to his homes in Spain and Holland than across the Atlantic in Mexico. Nevertheless, the legendary figure accepted his new role in February 2012 from owner Jorge Vergara, in an apparent response to the clubs poor run of form that season.

Chivas for those who aren’t aware are the most successful club in Mexico, having won 11 league titles and numerous cups since its foundation in 1906. It’s current first team contains some of Mexico’s brightest prospects like midfielder Marco Fabián and striker Erick Torres, both of whom are being watched carefully by a host of European clubs following Mexico’s surprise victory in the London Olympics this summer. Despite the positive feelings about the club and its booming youth setup, Chivas has its fair share of problems. Since Jorge Vergara took over at the club in 2002, he has not been far away from controversy. In 2003, whilst attending an MLS conference, he publicly announced that the league would have a Chivas expansion team in it – Chivas USA, which indeed happened the following year. Whether that was as planned by the MLS or more forced upon them is anyone’s guess. Chivas USA has done well in the league since its inception, embracing the US style of play, growing its fan base and even introducing its own cheerleaders, the Chiva Girls. Vergara has other expansion plans and has been proactively looking for further ways to extend the Chivas brand to anyone who listens but so far has been unsuccessful.

The Chiva Girls take centre stage during half time

The Chiva Girls take centre stage during half time

Meanwhile back in Mexico, Vergara’s patience for managers is well-known to be minimum. Chivas has churned through its fair share of managers in his time in charge, growing similarities to a well-known British club with a russian billionaire of the same ilk. When Cruyff was brought in earlier this year, his first job was to find a new manager so the legend turned to fellow Dutchman John van ‘t Schip as the man he wanted. Hired in April, his task was simple – to win but so far the Dutchman has had limited success which may have ultimately led to his countryman’s dismissal earlier this week.

On Monday the club released a press statement stating that Cruyff no longer had a position at Chivas and had his contract terminated with immediate effect:

“The club has decided to terminate the services and consultancy with the company of Mr Johan Cruyff. This is because of not meeting the outcomes and objectives that have been established since the beginning of the contractual relationship. The coaching Staff will not be affected, therefore technical director, trainer and technical assistants will continue to work with the club. The club thank Mr Johan Cruyff for the support and collaboration he has provided.”

This was news to Cruyff who found out of his sacking by various news sources and social media sites. He hasn’t been able to speak to the club to confirm it, but the release by Chivas leaves little grey areas around what they are trying to say. Cruyff is understandably confused and upset by the recent events and spoke to a dutch newspaper yesterday about his apparent dismissal:

“I don’t know anything about it, I’m finding out about it now. I’m trying to find out what’s going on”

Chivas owner Jorge Vergara sacked Cruyff

Chivas owner Jorge Vergara sacked Cruyff

Whether Chivas were right to terminate Cruyff’s contract will be in the hands of his lawyers and no doubt FIFA but from the clubs prospective, they felt they brought him in to do a job which he had failed at. Chivas are not ready to get rid of their manager and are keeping faith with John van ‘t Schip, for the time being at least. However if Jorge Vergara’s record is anything to go by, Van ‘t Schip may be following Cruyff out of the revolving door at Chivas shortly.