In 2012, despite their terrible record, Chivas USA went undefeated against the Portland Timbers, most notably winning 1-0 in Portland the week before the Timbers had their most devastating loss since joining Major League Soccer, the 5-0 loss to FC Dallas that effectively ended the season with more than three months to go.
In 2013 a resurgent Timbers team destroyed Chivas by a combined scored of 9-1 over three games, two of which were held in LA. It was the biggest margin of victory between two teams over the course of the season.
Today it was announce that MLS had purchased Chivas from its erstwhile owner, Jorge Vegera. Vegera, who brought some publicity to Chivas last year when he was sued for discrimination, was unable to turn around the franchise when he purchased full control of the team just over one year ago.
So, what does this mean for fans of the Timbers?
In the short term, Chivas will probably be another hot mess during the 2014 season. The Goats looked like they might be capable of turning things around this year after making a series of savvy pick-ups including a new, well-respected head coach in Wilmer Cabrerra. However, with the possibility of ties being severed with Chivas de Guadalajara, the future of the team's best player in 2013, Erick Torres, is certainly in jeopardy. "El Cubo" Torres, who scored seven goals in fifteen games for the club, is on loan from Guadalajara.
Players will be playing for their jobs (and probably Cabrerra's as well), but that has been the case for the last four years at Chivas and it has helped the team to a 29-70-32 record over that same period. In that time Chivas finished last in the Western Conference three out of four years and second to last in the fourth.
In the long term, however, the Timbers will likely face a team with an ownership group that is passionate and involved with the team and that is not run by a person who allegedly says things like "If you don't speak Spanish, you can go work for the Galaxy, unless you speak Chinese, which is not even a language."
Chivas USA, with their reliance on Guadalajara for an identity, was never going to be able to attract the players or fans necessary to make the team a viable competitor in a highly controlled league like Major League Soccer. There were some successes from the Chivas connection, like Torres, but most were busts, particularly as Chivas de Guadalajara went through their own struggles in recent years.
It is hard to imagine that, several years down the road, the team formerly known as Chivas USA (any re-branding will happen after the 2014 season according to the league's press release) will not be a significantly improved franchise, both on and off the field.
Despite the Timbers' seven points taken from Chivas in 2013, terrible teams like Chivas only serve to hold the rest of the league back, providing the naysayers something to point to and acting as a financial drain on the rest of the teams in the league. Watching the Timbers beat up Chivas last season was fun and helped the team get to the top of the West, but if MLS is going to continue to grow then every team needs competent ownership.
The MLS press release:
MLS PURCHASES CHIVAS USA
Team Will Remain in Los Angeles; Several Buyers Interested in Purchasing Club
NEW YORK (February 20, 2014) – Major League Soccer today announced it has purchased Chivas USA from Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes. Effective immediately, MLS will assume responsibility for operating the club. MLS will appoint an experienced sports executive shortly to serve as the president of Chivas USA during this interim period. Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera, who joined the club January 9, will continue in his position and report to the new president.
In the coming months, the league will resell the club to a new ownership group that will be committed to building a new stadium and keeping the team in Los Angeles. The league has had initial discussions with a number of very qualified potential owners and intends to finalize an agreement with a new group sometime this year.
The club will play as Chivas USA during the 2014 MLS season and will be rebranded with a new team name and logo in connection with the sale to a new owner.
Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Mr. Vergara and Ms. Fuentes retain all branding and licensing rights to the Chivas name with MLS permitted to continue using the Chivas USA brand name on a transitional basis.
"We thank Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes for their significant commitment to Major League Soccer," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "Jorge was an early believer in the league and he and Angelica have been great partners in MLS. "We collectively agreed that it is best to sell the club to new owners who are committed to securing a new stadium and providing MLS with a strong rival for the LA Galaxy."
Vergara was part of the original ownership group that purchased an expansion team that began play in 2005, and he and Fuentes became sole owners of the club in 2012.
"When Angelica and I gained full operational control of the team for the first time 15 months ago, we were hopeful we would be able to turn it around," said Mr. Vergara. "However, there is only one Chivas de Guadalajara, and we have realized that it will require more time, further resources, and a level of commitment that would divert too much of our focus from our other business interests. We explored opportunities to sell to other groups, but we believe selling the franchise to MLS on an expedited basis is in the best interests of all parties, including the team’s players and its dedicated fans. MLS has assured us they are committed to keeping the club in Los Angeles and finding the right owners to make the team successful in the future. We greatly appreciate the leadership and collaboration of Don Garber and his colleagues at MLS, which resulted in an efficient transaction that benefits all the parties involved."
In connection with the sale of the club to a new owner, MLS also will lead the discussions for a new stadium that would serve as the new home for the team. The club has played its home games at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. since debuting in 2005 and will continue to play there in 2014.
Chivas USA opens the 2014 MLS season on March 9 when they host the Chicago Fire.