Sitting Down with Stephen Hamilton: Part I

An interview with Chivas USA's Vice President of Soccer Operations

Chivas USA has had a busy month of player transactions, signing impact players including Paulo Nagamura, Rodolfo Espinoza, and Giancarlo Maldonado, loaning Chukwudi Chijindu, Maykel Galindo, and Gerson Mayén to USSF Division 2 teams, and trading for striker Alan Gordon. Working in close conjunction with Head Coach Martín Vásquez on these transactions is a behind-the-scenes figure in Stephen Hamilton, Chivas USA’s Vice President of Soccer Operations.

Hamilton has a long and diverse background in the sport of soccer, and is currently responsible for player identification, acquisition and development, among other duties. He played soccer at Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, graduating with a marketing degree, and has served as the National Grassroots Manager for Soccer at Adidas America, the Director of Fan Development with Major League Soccer, and the Director of Team Services for AEG Sports. In that position, he helped oversee six MLS teams.

Hamilton joined Chivas USA on January 16, 2008. In addition to his player development duties, he oversees the technical staff, as well as the club’s First Team, Youth Development teams, and Chivas USA Soccer Academies.

Hamilton spoke to in his office in The Home Depot Center.

What prepared you to become the Vice President of Soccer Operations?

“I have been in the industry for about 15 years, so it has kind of evolved. It was not something I set out initially to do. While with AEG, I worked with a number of teams, and eventually I found this opportunity.”

What do you look for when you scout players?

“It depends. If they are within our league, you have a lot more information, and you have seen them in the MLS environment. Therefore, you just have to see how that player would fit and complement our existing team, and I work with our coaches to evaluate that. When you are looking at players from outside the league, you have to project how they would do in this environment. What are their physical characteristics? Do they have something that makes them unique or special? We are evaluating players continuously, figuring out where we need help now and where we will need help in the future. All of that gets factored into whether they can make an impact, and how they can help us.”

Do you have an overarching philosophy when assembling a team?

“Working with Martín, he has a style that he wants. He has a system that stresses possession and players working for each other. This league is also physically demanding. All of those factors get evaluated. You are also looking at the salary cap, and how you can make all of those pieces fit based on what resources we have available."

What is your negotiation strategy?

“When we are negotiating contracts, we have an evaluation of what we think the worth of the player is, and our circumstances. There are a lot of variables, such as their time spent in the league, performances to date, and, if he is a younger player, his potential. We also have to fit it under the cap. At the end of the day, you want everyone to be happy, so you both have to give on certain points.”

What are your responsibilities during Chivas USA home games?

“For the most part, I am watching and evaluating our players, and always watching the opponent and seeing if one of their players stands out, maybe we should be thinking about making a move. You are always evaluating yourself. Every week is a test, and you want to see how our team performs and stacks up against other teams in our league.”

This is part one in a two-part series on Chivas USA Vice President of Soccer Operations Stephen Hamilton. Read part two here in which Hamilton will reveal the best decision that he has made, when he finds down time, and who is on Chivas USA’s unique soccer committee, which meets weekly to discuss major decisions.