CARSON, Calif. – Like any coach, Jose Luis 'Chelis' Sanchez Sola's mandate includes winning soccer games. However, the Chivas USA coach has other considerations as well. In this case, those involve finding and developing players for Chivas Guadalajara.
"It's part of of the instructions that the owner gave me," Chelis told Goal.com through a translator, "look for players who can play in Chivas Mexico as well."
When Jorge Vergara, who owns both Chivas clubs, hired Chelis, he gave the Mexican coach "three objectives that we look for in our organization," Chelis said.
One: to win matches. "The team is winning right now," Chelis said. Chivas USA is second in the Western Conference and is, despite a loss to the Colorado Rapids last week, one of the surprise stories of the nascent MLS season.
Two: to scout Latin American talent. This fits with the Goats' recent ideological reboot. Vergara and wife Angélica Fuentes bought out former partners the Cue brothers last season and promised a return to Chivas USA's Hispanic heritage.
"The prodigal son is coming back," Vergara said in Spanish in a November press conference. "The original idea of Chivas USA, we're going to achieve that."
Three: to develop players who "can log minutes in Mexico" for Chivas Guadalajara. The Liga MX side has a strict policy of only employing Mexican nationals on its roster. Any players making the jump from Los Angeles to Guadalajara would need a Mexican passport.
During the offseason, the Goats expedited MLS veterans such as Juan Pablo Angel, Peter Vagenas, Danny Califf, Alejandro Moreno, Nick LaBrocca, James Riley and Shalrie Joseph, none of whom could play for Chivas Guadalajara.
In a roster overhaul, the club added nearly a dozen players who would be eligible to play for Guadalajara. Last season, only one – Jorge Villafana – was available for both Chivas clubs.
Currently, Chivas USA has five players on loan from Guadalajara (including 37-year-old defender Joaquín Velázquez, who has never played for the parent club). Additionally, players such as the 2013 No. 2 SuperDraft pick Carlos Alvarez could one day make the move south. Chelis estimated that, given Alvarez's current rate of progress, the 22-year-old rookie may be ready to join Guadalajara in a year.
Chelis claimed that an unnamed team offered him $150,000 in allocation money for the No. 2 draft pick before the SuperDraft. Believing Alvarez worth more, Sanchez Sola turned down the offer.
Should the former University of Connecticut midfielder transfer to Guadalajara, what would the transaction cost? Chelis held up his fingers in the shape of an O.
(When speaking about Alvarez, Chelis decided to add a fourth objective to his job description: to lure crowds to the stadium. Chivas USA averages a league-low 7,624 fans per home match.)
If one of Vergara's goals when establishing Chivas USA in 2005 was to supply players for its parent club, it hasn't worked. Only Francisco 'Panchito' Mendoza has made the jump, and he quickly proved inferior to the level of play in Liga MX. Following a series of loans, including back to Chivas USA in 2011, he finds himself with Club Universidad de Guadalajara in the Ascenso MX, Mexico's second division.
Chelis' mandate is to pump water into the well.
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