Chivas USA had a new head coach and a new system last season, but after a slow start the team looked to be set in neutral in the competitive Western Conference. However, the acquisition of Juan Pablo Angel and a too late run at a playoff spot gave this team a bit of life and fans a reason for optimism. As the club watched cross-town rivals the Galaxy celebrate with the MLS Cup in their stadium, the future looks mixed for the franchise.
Next up in our 3 Questions series is Chivas USA, a team who has not qualified for the playoffs in two years after a nice run of success to begin the franchise’s history. Is next year the year when they begin a new streak?
1. Is management committed to this team?
The key to this question is who is making the personnel decisions. Chivas decided to pass last season on every big name that came through the allocation process. The speculation was that they were saving their powder for a big signing, and although they took on Juan Pablo Angel from the Galaxy, that big signing never came. It may come this offseason, but the way the club has gone about building has been confusing.
This offseason so far has not settled those “cheap management” rumors. Losing Zarek Valentin to Montreal in the expansion draft was very confusing considering that he is a young talent, but as noted here he was coming off his Generation Adidas and the team might have had to take on his entire contract. If money is the deciding factor on player moves, management has to reconsider the business they are in or begin to realize that good players do cost money.
2. Will “breakouts” Kennedy and Angel carry over into 2012?
To call Juan Pablo Angel a “breakout” is a bit misleading, but Chivas fans haven’t seen that much of a revival since season one of The Walking Dead. After being ineffective for the Galaxy, LA unloaded him on Chivas to make room for Robbie Keane. Angel proceeded to score seven goals in nine appearances for the Goats. Can he do the same in 2012? First the team has to work out compensation: his New York-signed contract paying him $1 million is way too much, so he and the team have to come to an agreement. This is even more critical considering Justin Braun was traded to the Impact.
The other shock of 2012 was keeper Dan Kennedy, who quietly put together one of the best seasons in MLS. I remember seeing him play at DC United this summer and was incredibly impressed with his poise. He has inked a new contract with the team so he will be set as the unquestioned starter in 2012. But as a bright spot for the team last season, can he carry over his form in 2012?
3. Are the newcomers the key to success?
Like New England, Chivas has been replacing some of their departed players with MLS veterans. The club grabbed Arturo Alvarez from RSL in the first stage of the re-entry draft and made trades for midfielder Ryan Smith (Sporting KC) and James Riley (Seattle/Montreal). As I mentioned previously, it looks like there is help coming from overseas but again that is untested talent in MLS (although definitely it is talent). You can argue that injuries and inconsistent play really hurt this team’s chances last year, but the acquisitions to this point don’t seem to address these issues. But like the Revs maybe a few veterans will help with a playoff push.