In the wake of yet another surprising defection yesterday, Chivas USA faces one question it must answer before it can set about the arduous task of rebuilding its first team.
What is the Red-and-White's identity?
It is a hard question for the club to answer, particularly with the inherent encumbrances involved. Chivas USA remains permanently fixed in the shadow of its more prestigious parent club despite operating within an entirely different sphere. It attempts to steer within the margins of its two worlds in its southern California base, trying to appeal to the parent club's hardcore fans from south of the border and to its more casual fans of its MLS side north of it. In addition to its muddled allegiances, Chivas USA groundshares with the far more prominent club in its city and suffers from a lack of a permanent home to call its own.
All of those concerns did not just appear on the horizon and will not dissipate overnight, but the concern over the lack of distinguishable identity rises to the fore with the wave of departures suffered over the past few months.
A trio of key figures within the Chivas USA hierarchy have departed recently. The cull started when the club axed coach Martin Vasquez on Oct. 27 after one season at the helm. Vasquez prompted his dismissal by refusing to fire one of his assistants at the behest of club management, according to ESPN Los Angeles. Club president and CEO Shawn Hunter followed on Nov. 2 when he stepped aside to spend more time with his family in Colorado. Vice president of soccer operations Stephen Hamilton resigned yesterday after three seasons with the club to complete the exodus.
The personnel moves have created a vacuum within the club that must be filled quickly. The onus falls onto Chivas USA investor/operator Antonio Cue to move swiftly as he seemingly attempts to chart a new course for the club.
Cue turned to Anschutz Entertainment Group to provide direction when the club last sought to revive its fortunes in the waning stages of 2007. Hunter left his role as president of sports for AEG – and postponed his desire to start his own consulting business in Colorado – to take over with the Red-and-White in September 2007. He soon brought in Hamilton, then the director of team services at AEG, to run the soccer operations in January 2008. With both Hunter and Hamilton now exploring their professional careers elsewhere, it appears Cue has decided the AEG way didn't quite fit how he wanted the club to run in the future.
Interim general manager Jose Luis Domene – the nephew of former Tigres president Jorge Domene, according to Record – will no doubt play a role in trying to determine how Cue wants to alter the club's course in the short term. The resolution to the circuitous coaching search should lend some insight as to the philosophy Cue seeks to impress upon his currently rudderless club.
After numerous promises, starts and stalls in its coaching search, Chivas USA must press forward with Hamilton out of the mix. The Red-and-White uses a rather nebulous committee to determine its coaching hires – Cue, Domene and others are involved – and recently narrowed its search down to three candidates (perhaps including former New York coach Juan Carlos Osorio on the list), according to ESPN Los Angeles.
The recent developments may or may not render those recent reports inaccurate, though it is too soon to determine whether Hamilton's departure will affect the process. The considerable upheaval and resulting uncertainty might and probably should make the job less attractive to domestic-based candidates depending on their current situations, but Hamilton's exit will likely have little or no impact for foreign options.
While Chivas USA must secure a suitable coach with some haste given the need to replenish its depleted roster ahead of the 2011 campaign, the grander question about the club's identity may ultimately prove more important. The departures of Hamilton and Hunter point the club toward a more Mexican-influenced direction than it has charted in recent years, but it remains to be seen whether the subsequent moves will continue along that road.
After all of the turmoil over the past few months, one thing is certain: Chivas USA must decide how it wants to proceed quickly and proceed towards its goal uniformly as it attempts to carve out its identity on and off the field.
Stage two structure dictates a flurry of moves will conclude the Re-Entry Process
Every club but two – Columbus and D.C. United – passed on the opportunity to select one of the 35 available in last Wednesday's stage one of the Re-Entry Process. Do not expect most sides to exhibit such reticence during stage two this afternoon.
As explained in the Monday MLS Breakdown and McCarthy's Musings last week, the procedures of the Re-Entry Process favor the clubs during the second stage.
The biggest factor is the presumably reduced price of the 32 available players The available players do not bear the weight of expensive options carried during stage one, and the clubs – and the league – can go back and propose new deals to any player selected during stage two. Since most players involved in the process boasted options in the six-figure range, the clubs stand to benefit by acquiring possible contributors at considerably reduced prices.
Even if the club doesn't particularly want a player, it may still choose the player for value purposes. Any club selecting a player in stage two must make a genuine offer – as deemed by the league office – within seven days. If the player declines the offer, the club should be able to retain the player's MLS rights and could possibly shop them to other interested clubs.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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