By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Nov 28, 2013) US Soccer Players – Within one month of the close of the 2013 season, Chivas USA cleansed its roster, front office, and coaching staff. Only the roster needed cleansing, though.
At Chivas USA, however, making head-scratching moves is standard operating procedure. These latest moves only continue that tradition while solidifying the club’s standing as an afterthought in owner Jorge Vergara’s Chivas empire.
Vergera essentially transferred Jose Luis Real from club to club, moving as head coach of Chivas USA to the same position with Chivas Guadalajara. Real’s task in Mexico is simple – help Chivas avoid even the thought of relegation. Chivas Guadalajara sits in a precarious and embarrassing position, just outside the relegation zone. Real has had success with Guadalajara before, helping lead Chivas to the 2010 Copa Libertadores final.
It’s that pressing situation that has forced Vergara to make the move, and it was a similar situation that forced him to move Real to MLS in the first place. Vergara trusts Real, having kicked him upstairs after his coaching stint in Guadalajara. Real took over Chivas USA in June, shortly after Vergara sacked Jose Luis “Chelis” Sanchez Sola.
Real actually performed well under the circumstances. With little talent at his disposal, Real helped Chivas USA gain a modicum of respectability. The club was harder to play against toward the end of the season and actually had a 3-2-2 run at one point late in the summer. Both Vancouver and San Jose dropped points against Chivas USA, points that would have been massive to either side at the end of the campaign.
Still, Real’s work was too little, too late. Chivas USA still wound up at the bottom of the Western Conference, won just six matches and provided few bright spots. What Real did offer was the chance of some stability. Had Real stayed here, he would have known what the league was like and what challenges to prepare for ahead of the 2014 season.
Combined with Francisco Palencia, Chivas USA’s Director of Soccer, the two would have gone into the 2014 season with a wealth of experience gained only by having lived through it. Already the work had begun as Chivas USA opted not to bring back 10 players, including loanees Mario De Luna and Edgar Mejia, as well as other players who saw playing time such as Steven Purdy, Marvin Iraheta, and Josue Soto.
Instead, both Palencia and Real are gone. Within one week, the two went south.
What happens next? Presumably, Chivas USA will find a coach soon. The club cannot allow the position to sit empty for too long. Other vacancies were created and filled around MLS (Frank Yallop to Chicago, Gregg Berhalter to Columbus) and Chivas USA cannot afford to fall behind even before the calendar changes to 2014.
While the most logical of choices is available – former captain and fan favorite Jesse Marsch – Vergara did not look his way a year ago when he ultimately went for Chelis. Barring an unforeseen change of heart, Marsch doesn’t appear to be a viable candidate.
Palencia’s replacement came quickly. Juan Carlos Ortega, who Real replaced, moved into a front-office role. Ortega becomes Director of Sporting Development at Chivas Guadalajara and Chivas USA. How a person who was with the Mexican Soccer Federation and Chivas Guadalajara is supposed to know the challenges that face an MLS team are is a mystery, but Ortega has been given that lofty title and role nonetheless. Assuming Ortega would like to communicate to the head coach directly, a Spanish-speaker is likely to fill the role.
Vergara looked to Mexico for the two coaches hired in the time he has had full control of the team, and that trend is sure to continue.
Will that lead to success? At this point, a season of stability with the coaching staff, front office, and roster would be a successful season, no matter the record. That too though seems out of reach.
Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.
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