I found this Los Angeles Times article (now gone) about Chivas USA’s fight for relevance (and a personality) to be thought provoking. This isn’t just a challenge for Chivas USA, as most MLS teams fight for relevance in their home market, just as MLS does within the greater sports market. But since the LA Times went there, let’s talk Chivas USA.
There was this crazy idea when Chivas USA started that it would attempt to follow its Mexican sister club (mother club?) in only playing Mexican players. In fact, that ‘crazy’ idea might just have been exactly what was wanted by their mercurial owner, Jorge Vergara.
The problem, however, was that MLS rules more-or-less prohibit such a team or at best make it extremely difficult to pull off. The team quickly moved to focus on Latino players instead of a purely Mexican focus.
And then they took the field. And they stunk.
The mission was aborted and the (mostly American) MLS journeymen arrived. (And the pro-Latino, pro-Mexican direction was widely ridiculed, as “not possible here.”)
Here’s the thing though. . what if they didn’t stink that first year? What if the caliber of MLS wasn’t to direly underestimated? What if they actually played well?
Here’s a thought… they should have stuck to their guns while fixing the on-field product. What’s wrong with having the only Mexican owned MLS team, sister of the most popular Mexican soccer team, be all Mexican (including Mexican-American), all Latino or at least all Spanish speaking. What you would have is a personality, a real connection to sister club Club Deportivo Guadalajara, and something worth talking about.
Some people wouldn’t like this. Fine. Frankly, lots of people are still asking what a “Chivas” is… of course, others still ask “What is a United?” when hearing of D.C. United. So let’s discount that one.
People would have claimed, this isn’t good for US Soccer. But, if the players included that “-American” after “Mexican” (or whatever their Latino nationality was) that would largely be without merit. The USA can use all the help it can find to uncovering good, hidden, Latin talent.
What’s good for US Soccer is to have people care. Getting fans loving or hating the teams in a league that still needs to generate passion outside of a hardcore following is one way to do that.
A Spanish-language, Latino player oriented Chivas USA would have made people talk, argue and hopefully care. When people complained, Vergara should have told them “Bite me” – in Spanish.
You know, I hear there are some Mexican-American fans in L.A. Maybe then they would have felt like they had a connection to the team.
And for those that don’t want to get on board? I here there’s another team in town with some English guy playing for them. Go root for them.