|Born in the U.S. but raised in Mexico, Josue Soto (left)|
is a friend of mine from the Dynamo but is now part of
the Chivas USA overhaul.
Normally an afterthought and one of the league's least popular clubs, I'm interested because they are basically re-starting the club and returning to its original intent: to be an American version of Chivas Guadalajara, playing a Mexican style and fielding a mix of Mexican-Americans, Mexican players on loan, and Californians.
I have seriously mixed emotions about this mission. It smacks of prejudice. Employing almost exclusively players of a certain nationality/race? Hard to root for. From what I have heard, there has been a major emphasis that every member of the front office staff be able to speak Spanish, and the team has done away with English-language television broadcasts completely. Not exactly inclusive.
On the other hand, it's fascinating. The attempt to turn over most of the team in one offseason is fascinating. The attempt to play a Mexican style in an American league is fascinating. The attempt to gather promising Mexican-American players in one team is fascinating. The reported use of the 3-5-2 formation - little-seen in MLS since DC and New England, circa 2007, is intriguing. I can't take my eyes away.
The biggest flash point, of course, is the team's stated Mexican identity. As a United States fan, I have hated the Mexican national team - and, I thought, Mexican soccer in general - since I began following soccer. But working for the Houston Dynamo gave me a different perspective on the Mexican teams we faced in SuperLiga, Champions League, and friendlies. Yes, there was the condescension and dirty play that made me hate the Mexican national team. But I also learned to respect certain teams and certain players (while still wanting to beat them every time). I admired Pachuca's style of play, began to appreciate Santos' attacking movement. I am now far more interested in the Mexican league than I was six years ago, and I love watching the clash of styles when Mexican and American teams meet.
Chivas USA could bring that to MLS every week, and it could be really fun to watch. They could be a hated rival for every team with a fan base that loves the U.S. national team.
So when Chivas USA opens its season tonight at home against Columbus, I'll be watching closely. It sounds like there may not be a big crowd in the stadium to watch closely, but it's going to be the start of something epic. It may be an epic fail, if the team fails to perform and Southern California fans decide not to get on board. Or, if the team succeeds, it may produce an epic villain of a team that opposing fans love to hate. Either way, I'm fascinated.
For more on the Chivas USA makeover, read on for a list of players brought in during the 2012-13 offseason. All 14 are Hispanic.
Chivas USA roster page
New Chivas USA players, 2013:
MF Carlos Alvarez (draft, UConn, Mexican-American - father played for Chivas Guadalajara)
MF Eric Avila (trade, Mexican-American)
DF Steve Purdy (free agent, Salvadoran-American)
DF Carlos Borja (free agent, Mexican-American, played for Tapatio)
MF Edgar Mejia (loan from Chivas Guadalajara, Mexican)
FW Giovani Casillas (loan from Chivas Guadalajara, Mexican)
DF Mario De Luna (loan from Chivas Guadalajara, Mexican)
DF Joaquin Velasquez (37 years old, signed out of retirement, Mexican)
DF Walter Vilchez (free transfer, Peruvian, played for Cruz Azul, Puebla)
MF Josue Soto (free agent, Mexican-American, raised in Monterrey)
DF Emilio Orozco (free agent, Mexican-American, played for Tigres)
MF Daniel Antunez (free agent, Mexican-American, played for Estudiantes Tecos)
FW Jose Manuel Rivera (loan from Chivas Guadalajara, Mexican)
FW Julio Morales (loan from Chivas Guadalajara, Mexican-American)
Returning Hispanic Chivas USA players, 2013:
MF Miller Bolanos (Ecuadorian)
FW Juan Agudelo (Colombian-American)
MF Marvin Iraheta (Salvadoran-American)
DF Jorge Villafana (Mexican-American)
FW Jose Correa (Colombian)
MF Marky Delgado (Mexican-American)
MF Oswaldo Minda (Ecuadorian)
Returning non-Hispanic Chivas USA players, 2013:
GK Dan Kennedy (born in Fullerton, Calif.)
MF Laurent Courtois (French)
FW Tristan Bowen (born in Van Nuys, Calif.)
DF Bobby Burling (born in Clear Lake, Texas - college soccer at Loyola Marymount in Calif.)
GK Tim Melia (from East Islip, N.Y.)
GK Patrick McLain (from Eau Claire, Wisc.)
Under contract but not with team:
DF Ante Jazic (Canadian)