Chivas credit coach for being "fittest team in the league"
CARSON, Calif. — Chivas USA forward Justin Braun has some bold words about his team:
"We are the fittest team in the league," he said.
Braun is clearly not afraid to assert the level of fitness that exists at Chivas. And for a team that has several players battling countless injuries, the coaching staff is vital in making sure that players can return to the field in a timely manner.
None is more important than strength and conditioning coach Jim Liston (at right), a member of the LA Galaxy coaching staff during the club's most successful stretch from 1998 to 2008 but who has now been charged with bringing the same winning conditioning to the Rojiblancos.
During his tenure for the Galaxy, Liston coached current Chivas head coach and then-Galaxy defender Robin Fraser. Fraser credits Liston with extending his illustrious career several years, allowing Fraser to continue playing until he was 39.
“I brought him in because he’s the best strength and conditioning guy that I’ve ever worked with,” Fraser told MLSsoccer.com. “The fitness guy is someone that most people hate, but Liston is extremely inspirational and somehow gets you to do things that you don’t want to do. He understands winning and what it takes to win, and he’s been so instrumental in creating the environment that we’ve been able to put together here.”
Since taking over the helm, Liston has focused his training on keeping the Rojiblancos fit during the taxing summer months, which normally cause teams to break down because of injuries. This has been made even more difficult recently as Chivas have suffered injuries to several key players such as Paulo Nagamura, Blair Gavin and Jimmy Conrad during the early months of the season.
Despite the injuries, Liston has sought to keep these players included in the team dynamic. Liston admitted that though there is a “secret” to the way he trains his players, his plans for the team are very clear: to always make sure every player feels like part of the club.
“The environment here is encouragement, and we believe that we’re all in the boat and paddling in the same direction," Liston said. "Even if you’re hurt, you’re still on the boat and still part of the team, and I think that’s important. We’re building a championship team and every day goes towards building it.”
Liston, Fraser and assistant coach Greg Vanney were extremely close during their tenure with the Galaxy, and Liston joined Vanney and Fraser when they received their first coaching positions of a youth girls side in a nearby Los Angeles suburb.
Because of this tight bond, Liston was the second person to join Fraser’s staff after the addition of Vanney.
“Working with good teams helped me modify what I do, not just physically, but with nutrition and the team dynamics and being more sensitive,” Liston said. "I think that those guys were mentors to me, and now I find myself a different role where I’m older — and maybe wiser — but I learned that it takes hard work, a resilient group of guys and a belief in process.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano