2013 Chivas USA Preview: Chelis building something new
Setting the Scene
A flurry of offseason decisions have left many questioning the direction of Chivas USA, yet a semblance of excitement surrounds the club as it enters its ninth season in MLS. New head coach José Luis Sánchez Solá has been tasked with creating buzz in Los Angeles and the vibrant “Chelís” has certainly taken that to heart, becoming a quote machine with reporters while maintaining a fiery approach in training. Give co-owners Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes this much: Chivas USA haven't sat idle following a putrid 2012 campaign.
Unfortunately for the Rojiblancos, matches aren’t decided by a coach’s ability to motivate. Chivas USA would be in great shape if that were the case. In reality, the club faces an uphill climb in a competitive Western Conference, but the passionate Sánchez Solá remains optimistic about his first year.
In and Out
IN: M Carlos Alvarez (1/17/13 - SuperDraft); M Eric Avila (1/22/13 - trade from Colorado); D Steve Purdy (2/14/13 - free agent); D Carlos Borja (2/14/13 - free agent)
OUT: F Juan Pablo Ángel (12/3/12 - out of contract); M Peter Vagenas (12/3/12 - out of contract); D Danny Califf(12/3/12 - option declined); F Alejandro Moreno (12/3/12 - option declined); M Nick LaBrocca (1/22/13 - trade to Colorado); F Casey Townsend (1/25/13 - trade to D.C. United); M Ben Zemanski (2/13/13 - trade to Portland); DJames Riley (2/14/13 - trade to D.C. United); M Paolo Cardozo (2/14/13 - option declined); M Ryan Smith (2/14/13 - option declined); D John Valencia (2/14/13 - option declined); F Cesar Romero (2/14/13 - waived)
COACHING STAFF: José Luis Sánchez Solá replaces Robin Fraser. Assistant coach: Daniel Gonzalez
Star Attraction: Juan Agudelo
Following a training stint with Scottish side Celtic, Agudelo was called into the USMNT’s January camp and forced to miss the Goats’ first two weeks of preseason camp. Upon his arrival in Carson, the 20-year-old forward managed to make a quick impression on Chelís despite a lingering foot injury. The coach understands Agudelo will be crucial to the club’s success and hope is that the budding star maintains a clean bill of health. He scored three goals last season after being acquired from the New York Red Bulls, and a lot of more is expected this year.
Unsung Hero: Dan Kennedy
It might not be evident in the win-loss column, but Kennedy has quietly established himself as one of the league’s top goalkeepers in recent years. He is coming off consecutive 100-save, 32-start seasons and, though rumors had him on the move as part of Chivas USA’s offseason clearance, Sánchez Solá pegged 30-year-old netminder as his captain. Chelís understands that the combined 15-29 record the last two years is misleading.
Ready for Primetime: Miller Bolaños
The speed and physicality of MLS took Bolaños by surprise in his rookie season, but the 22-year-old Ecuadorian has had a stellar preseason leading up to his second year. Bolaños is ecstatic about his role in the new aggressive attack Sánchez Solá has implemented, while the coach described his attacking midfielder as “spectacular” and “a natural goal scorer.”
Storylines to Watch
1. Eight seconds or less? Ball recovery has been a big focus of Sánchez Solá’s preseason training methods, with the coaching staff keeping statistics on how long it takes their side to regain possession. It will be interesting to see how the aggressive, fast-paced approach unfolds when matches matter.
2. Will Chelís have to adapt? It’s no secret that Sánchez Solá has his philosophies – which he himself labeled as “stubborn” – but will he be the first to budge if Chivas USA stumble out of the gate, or will opposing coaches have to alter their schemes first?
What He Said
“This is a team that will wrestle and fight, a team that will launch itself from the top rope.”
— Chivas USA first-year head coach José Luis Sánchez Solá on his expectations for 2013
If Everything Goes Right
Quick turnarounds are rare in sports, yet Sánchez Solá is unconcerned with the past. He genuinely believes his side will play an entertaining brand of soccer while remaining competitive in the conference. If things click quickly for this bunch, expect the Goats to climb out of the cellar to at least vie for a playoff spot.