Editor's Note: With the news that Chivas USA may be looking to rebrand the team, reactions are coming out. We welcome Maxi Rodriguez of Futbol Intellect and A Football Report fame to give his take, where he skewers the tropes we've heard before. Thanks to Maxi for giving The Goat Parade permission to run the article, formerly published here.
Over the last few years we've seen a constant stream of negative press underline Jorge Vergara's tenure in MLS, but judging by the amount of attention paid to a pair of recently-filed trademark applications, it seems that not everyone has given up hope in the man who once told employees that Chinese did not qualify as a real language. While a history of ineptitude and ignorance has blighted Vergara as an owner, hints of a rebrand have reignited hopes of a second successful MLS franchise in Los Angeles. But while the local community and a decent portion of domestic soccer fans may be favorable towards giving Vergara a second chance, there's real reason to remain skeptical. What Chivas USA needs isn't a rebrand, but a rebrand of a rebrand. Let's consider the reasons.
- Overall regression: Since hints of a rebrand emerged early Monday morning, the soccer community has been raucous with discussion regarding the franchise, a fact that might benefit the club's web traffic, but has had little impact on the functional realities of the franchise. Have season ticket sales increased since the news broke? Has attendance risen to a sustainable level? It's an unfortunate truth, but the potential rebrand has effectively regressed the club, who have averaged 0 attendance since details first emerged. Unless the club plan to break into the black off of Pan Bimbo ad banners, the potential rebrand has yet to have the desired effect.
- Fan alienation: Since it's inception, Chivas USA has been a franchise that has embraced alienating potential fans. The name made it clear: Chivas USA. Hispanic fans who had ties to Mexican clubs besides Chivas were quickly pushed aside, and even those willing to embrace split loyalties were quick to step away once they returned to their social circles, treated like the jock who dates the weird girl in a 1980s teen comedy. That said, the potential rebrand could follow the same pattern. Los Angeles FC/SC? And what of fans from Orange County? Or those separatist populations in Burbank or Silver Lake? Scoff at the notion, but when the unpaid actor community from the Valley fails to turn up to matches, the reason will be clear.
- Identity Issues: Don Garber recently spoke regarding the Camilo situation, claiming to only want a certain class of character in the league. But if Commissioner Garber is so focused on the moral fiber of players, shouldn't that extend to the franchises that populate the league? What I'm getting at is a simple question: what sort of message does the league send by having a franchise in Los Angeles in the first place? That it supports overpriced Korean food? That $8 cupcakes are an acceptable guilty pleasure? That widespread Undercover Instagramming of people who may or may not be celebrities is an acceptable social exercise? Won't someone think of the children before subjecting them to the excesses and vice of the West Coast? Gatsby be damned, MLS is a family league!
- Competition: It's a well-known fact that Chivas USA failed to resonate with the local community partly because of the LA Galaxy, the more successful and well-known team with whom they share a sublet. Some say that the rebranded team should look to find a new home, whether in the City of Industry or in some ransacked underground parking lot, but if the league truly supported a second franchise in Los Angeles, they would take a decisive act and remove the primary barrier preventing financial growth for Vergara's club: the LA Galaxy. Moving the LA Galaxy out of Los Angeles would finally give the new club control over their own market. Some trees have to be pruned to allow new growth.
- New name, same faces: Of all the problems facing a rebranded Chivas USA, one remains conspicuous. No matter the amount of fresh paint you apply to a fence, if that fence is rotten, you'll eventually face the same problems. Similarly, so long as Jorge Vergara maintains control over a rebranded franchise in Los Angeles, the club will be limited, and not by the local community's desire for competitive soccer. Should the rebrand go ahead, fans should not be surprised when the club deviates between only signing players from Southern California, Central California, California as a whole, or strictly youth products from Modesto. While that's certainly good news for Modesto high schoolers and Northern Californians looking for a lawsuit, the future looks grim for fans. Jorge Vergara is a man who trusts Paco Palencia with adult responsibilities. Can you trust that sort of person's judgement?
Overall, the Chivas USA experiment has been a failure, but so too has the rebranded club failed to live up to it's potential. It's time to pull the plug on Los Angeles FC or Los Angeles SC; the rebrand just isn't working.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!
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