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On whether New York City FC is becoming Chivas USA, Jr.

Yes, there are similarities, but does that really spell doom for the new team?

Coming to NYCF...sike! He'll show up to MLS at some point, probably.
Coming to NYCF...sike! He'll show up to MLS at some point, probably.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Ever since New York City FC was announced as an MLS expansion team, there have been questions about whether the Manchester City-backed side was going to be yet another Chivas USA. As someone who's been well within the eye of the CUSA storm, let's go through the ways in which NYCFC has shown itself to be like Chivas USA (and make no mistake, this comparison is never made in a positive light for the new team).

First, let's go through the ways in which NYCFC doesn't appear to be like Chivas USA, with the key caveat that the new team hasn't been fully built and they haven't actually played a game yet:

  • NYCFC hired people who actually know MLS, namely Claudio Reyna as director of football operations and Jason Kreis as head coach. Kreis has won MLS Cup, and has been adept at developing talent on the field in his previous stop at Real Salt Lake, which seems like a great skill set for a significantly richer club. In contrast, Chivas USA used a number of coaches who did not have MLS experience, from 2005 replacement manager Hans Westerhof to the 2013 tag team of Chelís and Jose Luis Real. Although CUSA's first manager, Thomas Rongen, did have MLS coaching experience (not to mention the likes of Bob Bradley, as well as Preki, Martin Vasquez, Robin Fraser, and Wilmer Cabrera, the latter four who all made their MLS head coaching debuts with the Goats), there were years in which the front office had varying levels of MLS experience, something that is essential to understanding how to build a roster within some major constraints unseen elsewhere in world soccer.
  • Chivas USA is an example that will be dangled over NYCFC's heads. In this case, one can't say, "Ah, Chivas USA's closure took place so many years ago that it's inapplicable here." CUSA was folded in October 2014. NYCFC will play its first official game in March 2015. People from these two teams likely rubbed elbows in various meetings and events the past couple years. As a result, moves that appear to be similar to the mistakes Chivas made will be held up, loudly, by the American soccer community. And it seems likely that MLS won't let NYCFC careen into a disastrous path with such a long leash with the memory of Chivas USA still pretty fresh.
Hmmm...two things. Ok, let's check the other side of the ledger, see where NYCFC does appear to be similar to Chivas USA:
  • NYCFC is a clear subsidiary of its parent club: This is tricky. When you're an outsider, having a hierarchy of teams within the same organization seems pretty natural. Look at it this way -- do you see Melbourne City FC on an equal footing to Man City? Of course you don't. That's how the rest of the world looks at NYCFC compared to Man City. However, when you're inside, having a team treated as a clear secondary concern to the original club is insulting, no matter how you look at it. Chivas USA was treated as a Chivas de Guadalajara farm team in 2005 and 2013. The worst seasons for the MLS team? No coincidence, it was 2005 and 2013. Meanwhile, the situation surrounding Frank Lampard, who was announced as a Designated Player signing by NYCFC in July, before being sent on loan to Man City in August, and then finding out on Wednesday that, sike you guys, Lampard was always under contract with Man City and won't be joining the MLS side until sometime in the summer of 2015 sounds pretty Chivasesque. Will Man City send over as terrible quality of loanees as Chivas did? That remains to be seen, and make no mistake, most of the Chivas loanees were horrible. But if Man City steals from one of its other teams in order to get the most glory for the metropole, of course that will make MLS look bad.
  • Branding! Ok, so NYCFC improves on Chivas USA because it at least includes the local place name in the club's name. But like the Chivas model, the Man City model with its other teams is clearly copying the original: [Local place] City FC. Add to that the consternation regarding NYCFC's home jerseys, which look exactly like Man City's, with the exception that Man City's are made by Nike and NYCFC's are made by adidas, and therefore feature the three stripes on the shoulder. Otherwise, they're identical! Even Chivas USA's jerseys, though they shared the red-and-white vertical stripes feature with Chivas de Gdl., never looked exactly like the parent club's.
  • The stadium situation: NYCFC is going to play at Yankee Stadium, probably for at least a few years. Some have questioned whether the team will actually work to get its own stadium in New York City. Let's say in five years NYCFC is still playing in the awkward confines of Yankee Stadium, and have made no headway in securing a stadium site and actually building that stadium, ok, panic can officially commence. Nobody said it would be easy to build a soccer-specific stadium in city limits, but they aren't playing in a direct competitor's stadium, like CUSA did for their entire existence, and for Pete's sake, here's hoping NYCFC doesn't shirk the effort to build a stadium like Chivas USA did for a decade.
  • Relations with media: A lot of people worked for Chivas USA's communications department over the years, and there was therefore a wide range of openness with media in that time. But even in the best of times, the club was not the most forthcoming of teams in the league with information, and their reputation of publishing press releases at say, 8 pm PT, or on Christmas Eve, did not endear them to media members. In contrast, I know of prominent media members who have never had contact with NYCFC, despite reaching out to them on multiple occasions. The Lampard news on Wednesday included no press release, which is standard in most situations. For fans, something like this may not seem to be a big deal, but when teams actively refuse to cooperate with reporters in any capacity, that certainly does not endear them to said media, nor does it appear like they really respect the media, frankly. And that can certainly be a problem.
So with these indications, does that mean NYCFC is an elaborate marketing strategy for Man City? Clearly, Man City's owners want to see NYCFC lead to new fans for the EPL side. That's not a bad thing, in itself.

But it's early yet to declare whether Man City is merely trying to siphon off fans/resources/everything from NYCFC at the expense of the MLS side, like Chivas did to its MLS team over the years. Chivas USA's vision changed as often as the weather in Michigan, and when it was not directly detrimental, it was muddled and unstable.

No matter what you think about the decision to have Lampard stay at Man City after the start of the 2015 MLS season, we honestly don't know yet whether this is Chivas USA all over again. Are there warning signs? Yes, there definitely are. But does that mean NYCFC is going to be Chivas USA, Jr? I mean, a lot of people would have to be colossally stupid to let that happen twice in quick succession. I'm not saying it's impossible, but any number of decisions can prevent NYCFC from being a weak subsidiary to a large foreign club. For the sake of NYCFC, its fans, and the rest of MLS, I hope we don't slouch towards another cautionary tale, lest Chivas USA's demise be entirely worthless.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!