After shake-up, what now for Chivas USA?
It’s been a busy offseason for Chivas USA's front office.
First, the team released debutante head coach Martín Vásquez from contract on Oct. 27. Then, president and CEO Shawn Hunter announced he was stepping down on Nov. 2.
Finally, the club's vice president of soccer operations, Stephen Hamilton, revealed on Dec. 14 he, too, was leaving his post. Both he and Hunter will continue to serve in advisory roles for the club, but their departures leave the Goats a little shorthanded for the moment.
All this movement begs the question: What is going on at Chivas USA?
“The organization is in good shape,” Hamilton told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday evening. “The ownership group is very stable and very committed. They’ve got people in place to ensure the success and viability of the club. This is a personal decision. It had nothing to do with the other transactions. This just felt like the right time for me.”
For now, Hamilton's duties will be performed by recently named interim general manager José L. Domene, who has served as a club advisor for the past 18 months.
“José has been with us for the last month,” Chivas' owner-operator Antonio Cué said on Wednesday. “He’s been working not only with Stephen, but with all the technical people making assessments on which players we want to continue to work with and which players we want to trade.”
With Hunter gone, Cué has stepped in as Chivas USA’s president. The team will look to find permanent replacements for both Hunter and Hamilton, but for now, the brass appears more interested in locking down a coach for 2011 and ensuring that the correct offseason personnel decisions are made.
“Right now, I am in the president role,” Cué confirmed. “When the right time comes, we will make those decisions. We’re going to have a response on the coaching question in the next few weeks, and we will continue to work on [the front office].
Chivas USA have already been active in offseason trading and drafting. The team lost Jonathan Bornstein (out of contract), Giancarlo Maldonado (loan expiration), Eduardo Lillingston (option declined), Marcelo Saragosa (option declined) and Alex Zotinca (option declined). In their places, the Goats acquired Alejandro Moreno from the Philadelphia Union (via the Vancouver Whitecaps in an Expansion Draft trade).
“There are things we feel strategically that we need to improve on,” Hamilton said. “We continue to make those improvements. We want to continue to strengthen the squad to make a run at the playoffs and beyond. This club continues to have high expectations. In the short term, you’ve seen a couple of moves. There will be others to come that will continue to make this club stronger.”
On Wednesday, the club announced two more additions: Jimmy Conrad from Kansas City via Stage 2 of the Re-Entry draft and Tristan Bowen in a trade with LA.
“It was a collaborative effort between the ownership group, the technical staff and me,” Hamilton said of Wednesday’s acquisitions. “We had been working on a few of these things for a while and it’s good to see them come to fruition. The moves will definitely help to strengthen the squad.”
The Red-and-White struggled in the 2010 season, falling to an 8-18-4 record for a last-place finish in the Western Conference. Priority No. 1 for Cué and his staff is to get back to winning ways.
“There are cycles in sports,” Cué said. “We had a good run of four years where we qualified for the playoffs every year. This year, it was difficult. We took a gamble with a coach that came from our youth program. It didn’t work out this time, but we will continue to give opportunities to people within the organization. We’re looking forward to a few announcements over the next few weeks. We have a solid core of players, but we need to add some players to turn around our results from last year.”
Whoever is chosen to fill the various empty leadership positions at Chivas USA, one thing is clear: The club is in the midst of a serious transitional period. Both on the field and off it, the Red-and-White’s personnel decisions over the next few weeks will have a huge impact on the future of the club and could have far-reaching implications in terms of the team’s brand and persona.
It’s not yet clear what the 2011 Goats will look like, but undoubtedly – both from a tactical and organizational perspective – next season’s Chivas USA will be something brand new.
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