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They represent the Latin soul of the MLS, for more than one reason. They were formed as the “little brother” of the most popular soccer club in Mexico in order to attract the Hispanic community in Los Angeles. Their squad can claim various players from Centre and South America, with plenty of Colombians and Ecuadorians. And they hope to offer an entertaining as well as successful soccer, after two years marked by an awful 8th place in the Western Conference table.
Still, it will be a long way to triumph for Chivas USA, according to the results in the offseason friendly matches. The campaign was ended with a ruinous 5-0 loss to San Jose Earthquakes, which raised doubts and dissatisfaction among fans.
Fortunately, these matches did not provide points for the championship. But as the new season is going to start, the American brothers of Chivas Guadalajara will have to change their attitude and head coach Robin Fraser should have worked hard.
There are premises for the upcoming season to be a better one, though.
Chivas saw the departure of the likes of striker Justin Braun, who emerged as team’s top scorer last year, and defender Zarek Valentin.
However, Jorge Vergara Madrigal clearly displayed his willingness to make Chivas a winning brand in the USA, too. Eleven new players have been signed, and rookie Casey Townsend, a striker for University of Maryland picked as 5th overall in the Super Draft, is worth of a mention.
The supposed-to-be front line may stimulate dreams of glory not only in the owner’s mind, but also in the fans’. Colombian Juan Pablo Ángel and Venezuelan Alejandro Moreno are likely to establish a good feeling, not only because of their native language. Despite their age (37 and 35 respectively), they can still guarantee a decent amount of goals. Former Aston Villa striker gave the best evidence last year, as he found the net for 7 times in just 9 appearances.
The defence is another crucial sector in function of the team’s fortunes. Fraser can rely on an experienced player such as newly-signed John Alexander Valencia, on ex-Real Salt Lake Rauwshan McKenzie and on James Riley, who shown in Seattle his ability on being fielded both as defender and midfielder.
In addition, the rearguard is given much solidity with the confirmation of Ante Jazić, the Canadian who had some professional experiences in Europe, and Brazilian David Lopes.
California-born Peter Vagenas, a veteran of American soccer, sounds as an ideal candidate for the leadership of the midfield. Back from an anonymous season in Vancouver (16 goalless appearances), the former United States international would like to win a trophy in his homeland. At the same time, he should act as a guide for the youngsters.
His pupils are Miller Bolaños, cracking pillar of Ecuador Under-17 national team in the recent past, and Marvin Iraheta. The Salvadorian is up to his debut as a professional player, coming out from the New York Cosmos academy. He was given a call in the squad who was invited to perform in what was the Paul Scholes last match of his career, an occasion in which he realised the difficulties in playing soccer at high levels.
Oswaldo Minda and Ryan Smith may emerge as another pair of useful figures. The Ecuadorian international has just joined Chivas and so did the Englishman, who spent the last two seasons in the MLS. Smith collected more jerseys than goals in the UK, as he served Arsenal, Leicester City, Derby County, Millwall, Southampton and Crystal Palace scoring only one goal with the Foxies. He found more continuity overseas and, after a decent time in Kansas City, he is looking to move forward in California.
Moreover, there is still a valid element such as Laurent Courtois, the French midfielder who played also for West Ham United and who scored one goal in 11 matches in his first season with the Mexican-originated franchise.
After such a transformation, the fans might start wondering whether Chivas will be able to repeat the fantastic three seasons occurred between 2006 and 2008, when the team earned a 3rd place, a 1st one and a 2nd in the Western Conference.
The season kickoff against a well-prepared side like Houston Dynamo may give them some precious indications.
But it would not be that strange to see Chivas improving match after match and becoming stronger as time goes by.
Like the homonymous whiskey.