A column from Ives Galarcep on Goal.com this week advocated sending the new Chivas USA to USL PRO for a year as solution for the moribund Chivas USA franchise. Despite Galarcep's different vision of the term, the idea of parking the club in USL PRO sounds like a de facto relegation.
This statement came some days after commissioner Don Garber told reporters, during the league's unveiling of the new logo, that MLS is evaluating the possibility of keeping Chivas USA out of MLS play during the 2015 season, although that depends on MLS finding a new owner for the troubled franchise.
Let me talk of the situation differently. The real question is if there is an ownership group ready to run the franchise. Should a new owner actually exist, I don't understand why he would buy a car and wait a year to drive it. So, the general feeling here is that MLS didn't find a group with the will to run this team next season. The hiatus or even folding the club looks like the only real options at MLS' disposal at the moment. Personally, I don't support those options.
As my colleague Eric Bobadilla correctly stated, the post-hiatus LA2 team will not be a continuation of Chivas USA. It will be a very different thing. It doesn't make sense. If the NFL, the America's No. 1 pro league, had the strength to sustain perennial losers like the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns for years, I don't imagine why MLS is unable to do the same. MLS has watched Chivas USA fall, so they can also deliver their resurrection. MLS can tolerate losing. Parking the team in the 3rd division of American soccer isn't a solution at all.
Putting Chivas USA in USL PRO is relegation, no matter how you call it, and this would be a bizarre solution at best. They could also fold CUSA. Dropping them to a lower level or ceasing operations is the same thing in my opinion. Those are not the right plans to restart a second LA team.
No, the only viable option is to rebrand and move ahead.
If there is no owner on the horizon, MLS can still run the new franchise. The league has owned Chivas USA since buying out Jorge Vergara so they can do it again for some period. MLS should operate the new LA2 team until they get a deal for a new stadium in downtown Los Angeles. They should fill the roster with hyped but also useful Designated Players. They should retain Nelson Rodriguez or hire a new MLS expert as club's caretaker president to run soccer operations. They should truly work to make LA2 brand fashionable enough to attract buyers.
But to do it, MLS should also change the team's identity. The idea of selling Chivas brand to non-Mexican fans or Mexican fans supporting other Liga MX teams than Chivas didn't work. And that's not to say the new brand can't have a nod to the club's Latino roots, but the new LA2 team should try to establish a new and larger fan base maintaining their Spanish roots at the same time. Those roots are in this franchise's DNA.
So, how can MLS operate this resurrection? Make the MLS owners meeting in Los Angeles on Oct. 6 the starting point for a glorious revolution. Start it by rebranding the team with a Spanish-oriented name as Club Deportivo Los Angeles or Atletico de Los Angeles. Continue to build and nurture the academy to grow young guys coming from the Los Angeles area in the way to strengthen the connection with the city. Keep the best footballers around, like young star Erick Torres and netminder Dan Kennedy: they could keep a kind of continuity for current CUSA fans.
Those are just some ideas coming out from an European-based die-hard fan that has seen a lot of resurrections within European soccer. But this is by far a better idea than a hiatus or not playing at all. Los Angeles can support two soccer pro teams, in the same way they are doing it in basketball with the Clippers and the Lakers or in baseball with the Dodgers and the Angels. They have just to change the view in which this club has been run until now.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!