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Chivas USA: The Future Of MLS…?

 Posted by on November 15, 2012 at 9:16 am  GFT Special, MLS, United States
Nov 152012

Earlier this week Jorge Vergara held his first press conference as owner of Chivas USA. He took the opportunity to lay out a grand plan for the future of his latest investment. There was talk of a vast search for a new coach, a new stadium in downtown Los Angeles, and a new style of play for the team overall.

For those who don’t know, I am a die hard Columbus Crew supporter. I do not care about any other team outside the league nor do I care about MLS as a whole. I do not like the way MLS is run, but as long as they give me Columbus I am placated.

Despite all of that, I am absolutely fascinated by Vergara’s vision for his club’s future.

I first started paying attention to Chivas USA on Sunday night when I saw a random tweet saying the team would use Vergara’s press conference to announce Marco Van Basten as their new head coach. This did not turn out to be the case. Instead Vergara announced that Johan Cruyff is heading up the search for the new coach as an adviser to the club. Despite a less than stellar track record (Van Basten failed to guide his native Netherlands to success while constantly feuding with its more high profile players), the fact that such a name appeared in the rumor mill says a lot about Vergara’s ambition. MLS has seen a lot of foreign coaches in its rank, many of whom have failed, but Van Basten is by far the most high profile in terms of his ability as a player. Van Basten was a truly world class player in his prime. His technical ability was phenomenal. MLS has never brought such a talented player into its rank.  While Vergara says the search spans the US, Italy, Mexico, and the Netherlands it will still be fascinating to see if Van Basten is in fact named head coach. Someone of Van Basten’s skill level coaching up MLS players would truly be something the likes of which the league has not yet seen.

Vergara also spoke of a future where Chivas USA is truly an extension of its Mexican predecessor. He talked about wanting to capitalize on the multi-cultural resources that America offers. Mexicans. Salvadorans. Hondurans. Panamanians. Colombians; a truly Hispanic club both in terms of the players it employs and the fans who support it. MLS has always searched for a way to grab the support of Hispanic immigrants as a means to boost its profile. But would the league be cool with a club wanting a 100% Hispanic identity?

Along a similar note, Vergara talked about how Chivas USA has tried to match the physical style of MLS and failed miserably. This is where I started to become intrigued. Vergara spoke about wanting future Chivas USA teams to use the speed and technical ability that Hispanic players seem to develop so much more naturally than non-Hispanic (aka white American) players. Having perhaps the greatest Dutch footballer of all team advising on all personnel decisions would certainly suggest he is serious about such a transformation. Personally, I find MLS games to be incredibly boring most of the time. MLS players, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic, tend to try to overpower one another rather than beat them off the dribble or with a spectacular pass. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a team came along and shattered that norm?

Then Vergara mentioned wanting to get out of the Home Depot Center. He talked about wanting a new stadium in downtown Los Angeles. Clearly he wants to get out of the shadow of the LA Galaxy; as he should. Chivas USA is very often overshadowed by their glorified landlords. Vergara even went so far as to say that an unnamed city in Texas offered him “the moon and the stars” to move to the Lone Star State. But Vergara says he is committed to finding a new home for his team in downtown LA. Too bad for Vergara, MLS is currently putting a very large amount of its resources towards finding a downtown stadium in New York for a second New York franchise.

This is where the plot thickens and I start wanting to get behind Vergara’s vision. In order to achieve his ambitions Vergara will need to fight MLS and its single entity structure tooth and nail. I hope he does. I am very much opposed not only to the single entity structure of MLS but also their quest for a new stadium and team in New York. I find it fascinating that Vergara basically wants to do what MLS is doing in New York; only he wants to do it 3,000 miles on the other side of the country. New York may be more cosmopolitan, but there is a steep tradition of soccer excellence rooted in Southern California. And yes, a large part of that excellence comes from across the border in Mexico.

I’m not sure if Vergara realizes the fight he is in for against all the rules and regulations MLS clings to in order to preserve its bottom line. But I hope he fights it kicking and screaming. Several weeks ago a story came out that Toronto FC ran into difficulties with the league in trying to sign Swedish center back Olof Mellberg back in July. Toronto executives were furious and their defense suffered dramatically without the addition of a player whom they genuinely could have used to get better. It is entirely possible (and likely) that Vergara will run into this type of situation in his efforts to re-make Chivas USA into a powerhouse uniquely bound by Hispanic and Dutch technical influence. Let us hope that he is outspoken if and when the league decides it cannot “afford” such a team. Let us hope Vergara raises a huge stink when he is met with resistance by the league office in New York.

And now let us imagine the future if Vergara is successful in achieving his wildest ambitions.

Imagine an MLS with no salary cap. Imagine Jorge Vergara wants to spend unlimited resources trying to build his club up to be the ‘Barcelona’ of MLS. He would not be limited to just three “designated players”, but rather he could buy as many as he wanted. He could create a team the likes of which MLS (and America as a nation) have never seen before. Now doesn’t that sound like fun? Doesn’t that sound like a team everyone can all enjoy?

Let’s just hope MLS and its single entity, salary capped structure don’t get in the way. And if they do, let’s hope Vergara fights it with the same passion he is displaying for his vision for the future of Chivas USA.


Aug 172012

robin vanpersie 2312923b Top 10: Most Controversial TransfersWith the news that Robin van Persie has completed his transfer from Arsenal to Manchester United, its only natural that the conversations immediately turn to the historical significance of what just happened.  Here we had a player on top of his game, captaining a top side in England, and now moving to a bitter rival.  So, where does his move stack up historically?  Here is our list!


barmby 150x150 Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers10. Nick Barmby

Barmby’s move from Everton to Liverpool in 2000 is one that generates some emotion on the blue side of Liverpool even to this day. It was the first time since striker Dave Hickson in 1959 that Everton had sold a player to Liverpool.  What made matter worse was when Barmby scored his first goal in Liverpool’s 3-1 Merseyside derby victory, he celebrated extravagantly while the Toffees chanted “Judas.”

cantona left credit1 221x300 Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers9. Eric  Cantona

In 1992 Sir Alex Ferguson may have just pulled off the greatest transfer in Manchester United’s history.  When Eric Cantona left Leeds United at the peak of their powers, he brought the league title with him to Manchester United.  This wasn’t a transfer caused by Leeds needing to sell their best players, and was actually caused by Leeds calling Manchester to inquire about Dennis Irwin!  Needless to say, many believe that the 1.2 million that Leeds got for Cantona was an absolute steal and Leeds never finished higher than Manchester United again.

8. Carlos Tevez

In 2008 Carlos Tevez was a fan favorite at Manchester United.  It was easy to see that Tevez had quality, but with Ronaldo and Rooney it was always going to be hard for him to break into the “star” role at United and this caused a rocky relationship with Fergie.  Manchester United were reluctant to fork over the buyout clause in his contract until the very end.  Substituted off in his final appearance that season, Tevez got a raucus applause from the fans.  Shortly after, Fergie offered a 5 year contract that would have made him one of the highest paid players at United, but Tevez refused.    Shortly after, Carlos signed for rivals Manchester City and the infamous billboard appeared shortly after.  Tevez quickly went from United fan favorite, to absolute hatred.

Carlos Tevez poster 001 Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers

Crujff Feyenoord 219x300 Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers7. Johan Cruyff

Always mentioned in the conversation of greatest players of all time, Cruyff gave his best years to Ajax and Barcelona before winding down his career in America, and finally back home in Holland.  After arriving back at Ajax for two years, and winning two titles, Ajax were reluctant to offer Johan a new contract.  Feeling slighted by the club, Cruyff went out and signed with arch rivals Feyenoord.  Knowing that this would seriously piss off Ajax, Cruyff made the move with every intention of being able to say “suck it” to Ajax.  The following year he did just that, winning the KNVB cup and league title with Feyenoord.

baggio fiorentina scarf 232x300 Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers6. Roberto Baggio

In 1990, riots broke out in Florence, Italy.  Up to 50 people were injured.  Were people upset about unemployment or high taxes? No, they were distraught that Fiorentina’s playmaker and local hero, Roberto Baggio, had just been sold to Juventus.  Despite the fact that the transfer was a record at the time, the Fiorentina supporters were just not having it.  Baggio always claimed his love for Fiorentina, and that was best shown in his first match for Juventus against his former club.  Having won a penalty, Baggio refused to take it.  He was immediately substituted and someone in the crowd threw a Fiorentina scarf at him.  Roberto bent down, picked it up, and firmly planted his lips on it – kissing the badge.  He went on to claim that his blood would forever be purple.

5. Ashley Cole

In January of 2005, Ashley Cole started his journey to become the poster child for “tapping up.”  His actions would leave him with a 100,000 fine from the Premier League for arranging a meeting with then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Chief Executive Peter Kenyon at a hotel room to negotiate a transfer.  Cole’s agent also lost his license for 18 months.  Cole’s club, Arsenal, had no clue that all of this was going on.  In the summer of 2005, Ashley signed a one year extension to his contract at Arsenal.  The very next year, Cole was “trembling with anger” when Arsenal presented him an offer of 55k a week.  Chelsea were offering 90k a week.  Cole went so far as to blame Arsenal for using him as a “scapegoat” during this whole fiasco, which resulted in Arsenal leaving him out of their 2006-07 team photograph.  On August 31, 2006 Cole was sold to Chelsea in part exchange for William Gallas.  He also gained the glorious nickname of “Cashley Cole.” Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers

4. John Robertson

robertson 200x300 Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers

In the late 90s, John Robertson was considered one of the top 100 players of all time.  Throughout the 70s and 80s he was the stud of Nottingham Forest, the dominate force in European football.  He scored the winning goal in the 1980 European cup final. To really understand what happens next, its important to understand the relationship of two people: Brian Clough and Peter Taylor.  They were the tag team combo that drove Derby County to the promised land, winning the league title for the first time in their 88 year history in 1972.  After unsuccessful spells at Brighton & Hove Albion and Leeds United (without Taylor), they joined forces again at Nottingham Forest where they won two European cups, a league title, and four league cups.  Taylor retired in 1982, only to be brought out of retirement to manage Derby County – with Clough’s blessing.  John Robertson would be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in 1983 when Taylor made the move to bring Robertson to Derby without consulting Clough.  In a tabloid article, Clough called Taylor a “snake in the grass” and declared that “if his car broke down and I saw him thumbing a lift, I wouldn’t pick him up, I’d run him over.”  The two men would never speak again.

3. Sol Campbell

sol 281x300 Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers

I don’t think you’ll find a Spurs fan around the world who wouldn’t consider Sol Campbell one of the best players to ever turn out at White Hart Lane.  In 2001, Sol had a choice to make as his contract ran out that summer.  He had spent the better part of a decade at Spurs and had very little to show for it, never achieving better than 7th place in the league.    Campbell was club captain and fan favorite, so naturally many believed him when he continuously promised fans that he would stay.  However, he continued to stall on his contract negotiations.  An enterprising manager by the name of Arsene Wenger made a cheeky attempt to lure the Tottenham man over to Arsenal.  Despite repeatedly insisting he would stay at Spurs, Campbell agreed to Wenger’s contract offer.  Campbell should still be a beloved hero at Spurs, but moving to their hated rivals that summer threw that right out the window.

2. Robin van Persie

So here we are, the current biggest transfer in the world.  Arsenal’s talisman, captain, and current player of the year Robin van Persie is sold to bitter rival Manchester United in the summer of 2012.  Earlier in the year, van Persie had stated on his personal blog that he would not be signing a contract extension with Arsenal because he did not agree with the direction they were headed.  Having lost a myriad of top talent over the last couple of seasons, Robin carried the team on his shoulder all of last season.   Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Emanuel Adebayor, and Kolo Toure are just a few who’ve left since 2009 with their best years still to come.  Robin, being 29, stated that his desire was to win trophies and he felt like Arsenal weren’t on track to do that.  In a transfer drama that has played out for months, there were only ever a few candidates.  van Persie himself indicated that United were his only real destination, but Wenger publicly claimed he’d rather have sold him to someone like PSG.  It was well known there were two prices for Robin, one for United and one for everyone else.  Not least of the issues in this transfer is also the rivalry between Wenger and Fergie themselves, which is only natural when you’ve spent so long at the top fighting with each other for trophies.  Despite perhaps having to pay a little over the odds, Fergie was happy to bring in the top goal scorer in the league in 2011-12.  Arsenal and Manchester United have been bitter rivals, dominating the modern Premier League; it remains to be seen the full impact of this transfer, but given the club’s histories, it should be a sight to see!

Robin+van+Persie Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers

1. Luis Figo

Portugese legend Luis Figo gets the honor of being the biggest controversy ever created by a transfer.  This is the transfer by which all transfers are judged.  The mother of all controversies.  Luis Figo had won everything there was to win at Barcelona in his five years there, with the exception of the Champions League.  He was the leader of Portugal’s “Golden Generation,” and It didn’t matter that he had been a crowd favorite, or that he was a member of one of the best squads in the world.

2000 was a presidential election year for Real Madrid.  Florentino Perez ran on the promise of bringing Figo to Madrid and claimed a secret document that he and Figo had signed.  Figo, meanwhile, denied the affair all together in an interview with Barcelona based paper Sport: “I want to reassure fans that Luís Figo, with all the certainty in the world, will be at the Camp Nou on July 24 to start the season.” On the supposed secret agreement with Pérez, Figo assured readers that “…I’m not mad enough to do something like that.”

figo Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers

In 2000, Figo gladly accepted a move to bitter rivals Real Madrid for 36.2 million, becoming the most expensive player of all time.  Barca fans promptly lost their minds.  In the 24th minute of an el Classico match at the Nou Camp, Figo had a pig’s head thrown at him – which has to be the first time this has ever happened.  Figo was the first of the “galacticos” (which included Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham, Owen, Raul, Casillas, and Roberto Carlos) to join Madrid to form one of the most brilliant teams to ever grace a pitch.El Classico Pigs head Top 10: Most Controversial Transfers