Chivas USA 2014 Season Preview: 4 Things to Watch for This Season
The punchline jokes surrounding Chivas USA are slowly dissipating, but what additional storylines will complete your 2014 season preview?
In part two of our 19-part series, we will take an in-depth look at the most intriguing plots surrounding the Goats this season. The number and player to watch, as well as the match that should immediately be circled on your calendar, will be delved into with great detail.
Read on for your comprehensive guide to 2014.
Note: Unless otherwise mentioned, credit all statistics to Squawka. All data collected is licensed from Opta Sports.
Before we preview the coming year, here is MLS's complete list of the offseason acquisitions and departures that helped mold this season's version of the club.
|M||Mauro Rosales||Trade from Seattle|
|D||Andrew Jean-Baptiste||Trade from Portland|
|F||Adolfo Bautista||Free Transfer|
|D||Tony Lochhead||Free Transfer|
|D||Andrew Ribeiro||Free Transfer|
|D||Fejiro Okiomah||Free Transfer|
|D||Donny Toia||Free Transfer|
|M||Thomas McNamara||MLS SuperDraft|
|D||Mario de Luna||End of Loan from CD Guadalajara|
|D||Jaime Frias||End of Loan from CD Guadalajara|
|M||Edgar Mejia||End of Loan from CD Guadalajara|
|F||Julio Morales||End of Loan from CD Guadalajara|
|GK||Patrick McLain||Option Declined|
|D||Steve Purdy||Option Declined|
|D||Daniel Antunez||Option Declined|
|M||Marvin Iraheta||Option Declined|
|M||Josue Soto||Option Declined|
|F||Jose Manuel Rivera||Option Declined|
|F||Tristan Bowen||Traded to Seattle|
|D||Jorge Villafana||Traded to Portland|
|M||Gabriel Farfan||Loaned to Chiapas|
The Story to Watch: Dissipating Punchlines in 2014
The Goats have reason to be a tad optimistic moving forward.
It's been eight months since MLS supporters purchased a scrolling LED night sign to show their discontent. "Fuera Vergara" is still the mantra surrounding the club, but there has been improvement since that fateful June night.
Now, no one is insane enough to claim Chivas MLS Cup contenders after finishing 6-20-8 last season. But enough acquisitions were made last year and during the offseason to soften the punchlines that proliferated after a scathing segment on HBO's Real Sports.
This club, if anything, will be competitive in 2014.
A veteran presence was established in July of last year when Carlos Bocanegra decided to return from Europe and settled down in his native California. The additions of Mauro Rosales and Andrew Jean-Baptiste further established that MLS presence and will provide the club enough talent to remain competitive.
A changing philosophy in player personnel was met by a change in the coaching ranks.
There are no ties with the mother ship known as Chivas Guadalajara.
As Blair Angulo points out on MLS's official website, baby steps towards success are all that concern Cabrera in 2014:
We have received the challenge and have the support from the owners, front office and Paco Palencia as the sporting director. That's the first step toward starting a project – you need support and need to be well prepared. We're going to be united. We want to be a team that will be prepared in everything we do. [On Monday] we started the right way and, with that commitment, we can change things that didn't go well last year. Little by little, we can get better results.
That all sounds well and good in an offseason press conference, but the results must still be obtained. They'll be difficult to come by in a toughened Western Conference, so don't expect leaps and bounds in 2014.
But don't expect another scrolling LED night sign, either.
Changes are abound.
The Number to Watch: 8,366
Speaking of changes.
Chivas USA averaged an abysmal 8,366 fans in 2013. That was 6,478 less than the second-lowest club, the New England Revolution (14,844). It was also 35.9 percent lower than the attendance the club averaged in 2012 (13,056).
Sparse crowds have plagued the newly dubbed StubHub Center in recent years. Scattered crowds attempting to start a wave bore a resemblance to a ripple—much like this scene from the 1989 classic Major League.
Embarrassing attendance figures remain one of the key points behind the movement of contracting or moving the club—a movement commissioner Don Garber is 100 percent not on board with.
In a Q&A session with ESPN's Jeff Carlisle, Garber added that there is "no chance" the club will moved or contracted. When pressed for a blueprint on how to mend the most farcical brand in the league, the commissioner had this to offer:
We'll figure out a way to fix it. I'm not going to talk today about what that plan is, but we have a plan, and we will fix it.
That plan is already in motion.
Owner Jorge Vergara expressed to ESPN MX on Monday that the club has "studied the possibility" of changing the club's name to Los Angeles FC or Los Angeles SC. Alicia Ratterree of the Goats Parade initially caused the stir after leaking filed trademarks and logos.
The club could ill afford another season of four-figure support.
It was only a matter of time before Vergara came to his senses.
Update: MLS announced on Feb. 20 that they have purchased Chivas USA from Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes. Effective immediately, the league will assume responsibility for operating the club.
The Player to Watch: Adolfo "El Bofo" Bautista
Better known for his alias than his government name, Adolfo "El Bofo" Bautista signed with Chivas USA and left Mexico behind for the first time in his career.
The 34-year-old spent last season with San Luis in Ascenso MX, making 11 appearances between league and cup matches. He scored just one goal and is far removed from the 38-time Mexican international many remember.
Not exactly a promising signing.
Productivity remains a priority, but a man with dwindling talents will serve one main purpose in 2014: Leveraging his Mexican legacy to draw local support.
You saw the attendance figures. Any little bit helps.
But for those still holding on to performances of the past, Coach Cabrera is asking for more tempered expectations in 2014.
Blair Angulo carried the quotes on MLS's official website:
This league is different and this is the first time he's out of Mexico. It takes time. We don't want him to feel that he has the responsibility to be the man. No, Bofo is going to help us with his experience in games and his technique, but little by little, when he is ready, we're going to let him go.
The hope in Carson is any semblance of a player that featured in previous World Cups. His free-kick goal in a preseason match was a step in the right direction. His penalty kick in a comeback victory over the Colorado Rapids this preseason was another promising moment.
Finding the perfect compliment for Erick "Cubo" Torres atop the formation will be crucial for the Goats' success. As scintillating as his start was—seven goals in his first nine matches—Torres finished the season with six scoreless performances.
A successful partnership could catapult him to the top of the goalscoring rankings.
Can El Bofo Bautista provide it?
The Match to Watch: The SuperClasico
April 6, 2014.
Let's go with the first of the three scheduled SuperClasicos. The earlier the better. There's no telling how far down the standings Chivas USA will be come late August. The optimism will still be there, but the excitement will be gone.
Apologies for the harsh reality check.
Week 5 will be the Goats' third nationally televised match and will come a week after flying cross country to play the Red Bulls in New York. Even the schedule makers aren't on their side.
Add to that, there hasn't been much "super" in this American rendition of the SuperClasico. In 28 head-to-head meetings, the Los Angeles Galaxy have prevailed on 18 occasions. By comparison, Chivas have only only captured four victories.
Lest we forget the 5-0 drubbing the Galaxy provided the last time these two clubs met.
But the fact remains—whether fabricated or not—Los Angeles remains Chivas' main rival. Local pride is at stake with every clash. In order for the Goats to change the perception of the club, a statement victory is of the utmost importance.
It must come in Week 5 against a prohibitive favorite that just so happens to be their rival.
Eduardo Mendez is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and analyst for Opta Sports. Follow him on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics. Follow @Mendez_FC