Note: With Chivas USA projected to be picking up a new owner and rebranding soon, we will be offering suggestions for the direction of the club with occasional commentaries laying out our "wishlist." Here's the first entry in the series.
'Tis the season, where foreign soccer teams descend upon American shores, hoping to get some preparation during their preseason and perhaps more importantly, increase their exposure stateside, all while racking up a payday (or series of paydays) on their travels.
While MLS teams don't have exactly the same motivations for hosting midseason friendlies, they do also get a modicum of exposure internationally and grab a payday too, all while also hoping to snag a few more local fans.
It seems like a win-win, right? So why doesn't every team have midseason friendlies? Nearly every team does every year or two at this point, and now, many lower league American teams are getting in on the action.
The prevailing argument among hardcore MLS fans is "Trophies, not friendlies." In other words, MLS teams should dedicate their precious resources to winning titles instead of chasing the comparatively meaningless friendlies against foreign teams. And on some level, that is completely logical, as no team wants to see a player pick up an injury in a meaningless game, and the allure for fans should by-and-large be directed at the regular product on display, rather than a single game against the bright lights of Europe or Latin America.
All that said, if everyone finishes the game healthy, it can be fun to watch your local team play a prominent club on a tour. Who doesn't want to have fun?
At this point, you probably see where I'm going with this. Chivas USA haven't played a midseason friendly against a foreign team open to the public locally in years. The last one was against Chivas de Guadalajara in September 2010, and that one wasn't even played in the LA area, but in San Diego at Petco Park.
Sure, CUSA played CD Guadalajara last year, too, in a friendly open to the public, but it was in Juarez, Mexico. The friendly they played against the mothership in Carson was a scrimmage completely closed to the public last year, on Father's Day, a day one would have figured would be a great draw for families in the area. They also played the New Zealand national team last year too, but that game was not open to the public, either, although in that case, some shenanigans over a multi-team friendly tournament fell through when the promoter never got its act together, and the game was ultimately thrown together last minute. Despite all that, what gives?
Why can't this club get to play a fun exhibition against some interesting competition once in a while that the fans can actually see?
The reasons why they haven't done it are obvious: Chivas USA rent out the StubHub Center, and have to pay for use of facilities each time they use them. Since it takes work to organize a friendly with a foreign team, and since they don't want to have to pay for all of the overhead of facilities, appearance fee and/or cut of the gate to the visiting team, they just haven't bothered.
It's a shame, really. Again, the objective of this team should be to take competitions seriously, try to make the playoffs, try to win the U.S. Open Cup, etc. But this team hasn't gotten close to any kind of a trophy, save for two runs to the semifinals in the USOC, in recent years, and wouldn't it be nice to see an English/German/Mexican/any other country will do team live and in person before their league season starts up?
Current Chivas USA President Nelson Rodriguez previously discussed a need for the organization to be creative in trying to attract fans this season. While I wouldn't necessarily hold him to the same standard as most club presidents, given the circumstances surrounding the team at present, I still think it's disappointing they couldn't line up some kind of friendly in this lame duck year. Not to take anything away from them, but USL PDL side Ventura County Fusion have been making a cottage industry of attracting teams on preseason tours in recent years, and if they can manage it, why can't CUSA work something out to generate a little buzz, and get the team's name out there in public some more?
Put another way, if the problem with the club on a reputation level is that it is perceived to be the "racist" team that has no fans and can't win games, why not try to change the conversation by setting up a game or two with teams from countries that don't even know what a "Chivas USA" is?
Alas, there are no midseason friendlies in 2014 for the Goats. We'll have to stay home and save our money while watching foreign teams we like play other MLS teams in the coming weeks. What a shame. In the meantime, let's hope the next owners understand the benefit holding a meaningless game could have in elevating a team's reputation, and, oh yeah, giving the fans a fun night out. It shouldn't take the place of meaningful work towards that first piece of silverware for the club, but should not be forgotten, much as the fanbase has been forgotten on this count for too long.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!