Chivas USA President Nelson Rodríguez spoke during halftime of the NY-CHV game last Sunday to address matters of the club’s future and current state.
Rodríguez is an optimist and he’s convinced of what the club can do. That’s great. That’s what this organization needs. His mission is to turn Chivas USA into an attractive, winning club, in order for the league to sell it.
But the club’s president is unaware of any buyers, and this is a troubling revelation. He defers those questions to the higher-ups at MLS HQ. The league stated at its point of acquisition of the club that it would lead negotiations for landing a stadium for Los Angeles FC/SC. This is also a very critical detail in this whole handling of Chivas USA. It is accepted that the league has been making decisions for Chivas USA going back a few years. Chivas USA had some options for building a stadium in the LA area, but it is known that the league wants a stadium at Exposition Park, at the site of the LA Sports Arena, which is expected to be demolished by its new owners, the University of Southern California. This reveals more of the league’s bullish attitude about its preferred locations for its franchises. It is said that in this era of “MLS 3.0” that the league wants to have urban core stadiums instead of suburban ones, located away from downtown districts, etc. This, in part, helps to explain why nothing happened with the Chivas to Santa Ana proposal some years back, which was the most realistic possibility for the club back then, and the closest they got to getting real political support.
The league wanted a stadium for NYCFC in Queens and couldn’t deliver. The status of NYCFC’s stadium plan is currently non-existent and is one gigantic question mark. MLS wants a stadium at their first choice, Port Miami, for Beckham’s investment group, but the status of that plan is far from substantial. It’s this same attitude that the league is applying for LAFC/SC. MLS is leading talks with USC, or at least they’re trying to revive those talks, because the league wants a stadium there to serve its interest and profile first and foremost. To boil it down, MLS forcibly wants to manufacture two teams in NY and LA, maybe because they’re feeling the heat brought on by the NASL. MLS is probably right not to underestimate them.
So MLS is at the point of having to secure the location they want at USC’s Expo Park before they find a buyer. The league is essentially telling a potential buyer where to build.
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Last season Chivas USA had more LA-born and bred talent on its roster than the LA Galaxy did. Fast forward and Chivas USA have been completely dismantled this season, with a club being built to resemble models of previous seasons. Gone is the emphasis on a regional identity, as this time around, Chivas have 3 Argentinians–something never done before at Chivas USA. The three Argentinians Leandro Barrera, Mauro Rosales and Agustín Pelletieri now fill the spots of Bryan de la Fuente, Eric Avila (who was pushed back to right defensive back), and “Chore” Mejía who was sent to Puebla.
These drastic measures were taken in order to at least try to build a more competitive (and ultimately more valuable monetarily) club in order to attract a buyer in the LA area, who’ll commit to building a stadium at the league’s preferred site at Exposition Park.
Sporting wise, the club currently known as Chivas USA (to be named Los Angeles FC or Los Angeles SC) are on better footing and are more competitive than last year’s model. Chivas USA went toe-to-toe with last season’s Supporter’s Shield winner (the team with the best overall record) in the New York Red Bulls just last Sunday and are poised to give the Galaxy a hard time just as well. Actually, Chivas USA stayed in some close games with strong teams last season, but suffered due to inconsistency caused by frequently redrawn starting lineups and injuries. The task this season will be for the club to keep a consistent lineup in order to get consistent results. Four games in, Chivas have only lost once, which is a good sign.
Chivas USA have to win the games that matter the most, particularly those against the Galaxy, and never more so than this season, as odd as that may sound. Now is the time for Chivas USA to deliver because the club’s future is at stake. What owner is going to buy a broken franchise failing to sell tickets and build them a stadium on top of that, on prime real estate land? Results matter more than ever now for this club and a sense of duty is felt from the club’s president Nelson Rodríguez to the coach and players. Truly, Chivas USA’s 2014 campaign is a balancing tight rope act if ever there was one. But they do look more solid and will hopefully keep the form they started with throughout the season.