This piece was originally published in the Santa Ana Sentinel on April 5, 2011.
It’s no surprise that Santa Ana is a soccer town. In fact, Santa Ana can boast that at least one player developed in a Santa Ana youth soccer league now plays professionally for Chivas USA of Major League Soccer, who is Jorge Flores, the first ever Sueño MLS Competition winner. He played for Santa Ana’s Juventus DSP before trying his luck with the MLS.
There was talk for awhile of building a stadium for Chivas USA at Willowick Park in Santa Ana. It makes sense to have some professional soccer team here. The idea for a Chivas stadium has seemingly fizzled, along with that club’s plan to invest in youth soccer in the city. Chivas USA mentioned having a facility or using Santa Ana fields for their youth clubs, but that relationship with the city was short lived. They did have two youth teams calling Santa Ana stadium home, the Chivas USA U-16 (Under 16 years of age), and the U-18 boys teams, but this is no longer the case.
Yet other teams see the enormous potential for youth development and have come knocking. Mexico’s Atlante Football Club had a youth team based in Santa Ana…
The newest club to show interest and to move in is the Chivas rival club Atlas, another team originally from Guadalajara. Atlas Santa Ana’s logo retains one of the most important and identifying symbols of the city and its history, the fleur de lis used by the Saints of Santa Ana High School.
In 2001 the Orange County Blue Star of United Soccer Leagues’s Premier Development League was formed and played its games for a year at Santa Ana Stadium. One of the most notable former Blue Star players is Sacha Kljestan, who played professionally for Chivas USA and now plays for Anderlecht in the Belgian First Division.
All of this potential and talent is finally being harvested, so much so that a professional side called the Santa Ana Winds of the National Premier Soccer League emerged. This club plays its games at Eddie West Field but has been running into some snags as of late. The club already had to move its first game of the season against Hollywood United to Centennial Park last week.
It’s clear that these clubs see the potential for player development and a market for a professional team. Maybe City Council will see this potential and work to make an environment for professional soccer of the highest level. Major League Soccer and a 20,000 seat stadium (or expansion of Eddie West) anyone?