I was wrong.
When Chivas USA was announced as an MLS expansion team, I thought fans would greet it warmly. At home, they would draw solid crowds. On the road, the crowds would get a boost from the Chivas fans scattered across the country. That didn’t happen. As the years went by, it was clear that Chivas fans just focused on the original Chivas in Mexico, and other Mexican fans had no interest in cheering for a team wearing their rivals’ shirts.
And it was pretty clear that the young Mexican players who saw the field in that first Chivas USA season weren’t going to get it done against experienced MLS pros. The idea of a pipeline of talent between Guadalajara and Los Angeles never materialized.
The team did better when it eased away from the Chivas-lite motif. Bob Bradley and Preki coached the Americanized Chivas to winning records and playoff berths. Brad Guzan emerged as a top U.S. goalkeeping prospect. Scrappy American players led the way — Ante Razov, Sacha Kljestan, and Jesse Marsch among them. The youth academy was promising. A few Mexican players, especially veteran defender Claudio Suarez, added to a healthy mix of talent.
But the team decayed after 2009. When Jorge Vergara bought out his partners and decided to renew the focus on being a little bit of Guadalajara in Los Angeles, the end was near.
MLS has done the right thing here in taking over the team for a transitional year. If you insist on relating everything to English business models, pretend the team is in “administration.”
Cynics are already tearing down NYC FC, figuring its ties to Manchester City will spell doom for the same reasons Chivas USA failed. I doubt it. I think the mistakes can be easily avoided.
But I’ve been wrong before.