There’s an alternative way to explain what’s going on at Chivas USA these days. Jorge Vergara - the businessman, not any sort of soccer connoisseur - is trying to become the center of controversy, a la George Steinbrenner in his heyday, or a modern Donald Trump.
Seriously, it’s the only explanation for going down this road once again. Vergara’s moves of late with Chivas USA have publicity grab written all over them.
I came to this conclusion while reflecting on the naming of Jose Luis Sanchez Sola as coach of the MLS franchise.
You can make a lot of good arguments for why Chelis, as he’s known (get used to it) makes a lot of sense for any MLS club, particularly Chivas USA. He is one of Mexico’s most popular coaches, helped repair a flagging Puebla franchise a few years ago, and is insistent on imposing a fun-to-watch, wide open attacking style which could potentially bring fans in droves.
But then Chelis opened his mouth, and - as usual - some controversial things came out.
No sooner was the Mexican asked about coaching in the U.S. than he took a jackhammer to his would-be future home, saying that all MLS teams play alike, and insinuating the the American league still has plenty to learn about good soccer. (Sadly, he backed down on those comments a bit upon arrival in L.A., but we probably won’t have to wait long for more.)
Chelis also fell back on the argument that Chivas USA’s failures are due to not playing with enough Mexicans, but ignoring history is par for the course in Chivas USA land these days.
All that caused the predictable uproar among the American soccer community - which seems to be growing to hate Chivas USA more and more with each move - and gave the struggling franchise another dose of attention it would never have gotten were it not for all this American soccer bashing.
Bingo - another publicity home run for a previously anonymous franchise.
It seems completely possible that Vergara is aiming to become - for lack of a better word - the troll of MLS: the man and the franchise most hated because of their open disdain for something the rest of the community holds in high esteem - in this case American soccer.
If Goal.com discussion boards are any indication, it’s not a bad strategy. There’s definitely a place for American soccer hating in American soccer, starting with the growing market of local El Tri fans, who for various and perfectly tenable reasons can’t stand the U.S. national team or MLS, and enjoy dividing their time between bashing American soccer and supporting El Tri.
If the rank and file among that group that doesn’t support Chivas in Mexico can get over it and get behind this project, Vergara may well be on to something here. He could be on the way to building the first unified soccer hating nation that actually enjoys the sport, based purely on the novel notion that the game is just fine, but American soccer, specifically, sucks.
Chelis, ever the revolutionary, a man who has even dressed in historic Mexican revolutionary gear to roam the sidelines of late, could be an ideal leader for this assault on the American game.
Apart from the perfect Billy Martin to Vergara’s Steinbrenner - Chelis has resigned and been fired any number of times in his relatively short career - the coach has what it takes to unite what promises to be a diverse but somewhat ethnocentric group in L.A., instilling an us-against-the-world mentality that can be very useful in sport.
Even the rumored signing of the outspoken and highly entertaining Bofo Bautista, who had retired, fattened and spent his time on reality TV of late, pans out in this light.
Taken as an overall branding exercise, this revamp of Chivas USA finally makes sense to me. So don’t write off Vergara so quickly, American soccer fans. Chances are if he executes his plan correctly, the Chivas mastermind and his club could be a thorn in your American soccer loving side for some time to come.
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