2012 in Review: Chivas USA
Over the next three weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 7-18-9 (30 points); 24 GF / 58 GA (-34 GD)
Somewhere along the line during 2012, the wheels fell off the Chivas USA express. Then, things got really dire. Within striking range of a playoff spot heading into August, Chivas had an epic implosion as the team’s defense went from stingy to porous while the attack completely disappeared.
Hanging over the club, though, was a bit of a cloud that eventually smothered the campaign and changed the face of the franchise once the season ended. Jorge Vergara bought out former partners Antonio and Lorenzo Cue and became Chivas USA’s sole owner. The sale was first announced in late August, but the Vergara era began in earnest after the Goats put the finishing touches on a disastrous 7-18-9 campaign.
Vergara wasted no time in cleaning house, getting rid of head coach Robin Fraser, right-hand man Greg Vanney and general manager Jose Domene, among others. No replacements were immediately announced, but the club’s focus and identity appear headed for a stark transformation from what it had come to represent in previous years.
Still, even without the change in ownership, the team was headed down a road filled with despair and heartache. Perhaps, then, a drastic change was necessary.
Best Moment of the Year
Not since 2007 had Chivas beaten the LA Galaxy, but lightning struck on May 19. The Galaxy, suffering through some early season woes, were vulnerable and no match for los Rojiblancos. Former Chivas man David Júnior Lopes was whistled for a penalty and sent off after a handball on the goal line, and José Erick Correa converted the penalty kick that eventually gave Chivas their first SuperClasico win in five years.
Worst Moment of the Year
The bottom didn't fall out on Oct. 3. When Vancouver pummeled Chivas 4-0 on that day, the bottom was long gone. But that loss ensured that 2012 would be in the running for the team’s worst season ever. Chivas lost their seventh consecutive match that night, a team record that is made even more remarkable considering the fact that the atrocious 2005 squad did not set it. But this year’s team earned it – opponents outscored the Goats 18-1 during that stretch.
Juan Pablo Ángel scored an acrobatic goal against former club New York on May 23. Raushawn McKenzie headed down a ball from a corner kick towards Ángel, who spun and slammed the ball past Ryan Meara. A longtime standout with the Red Bulls, JPA showed no emotion after the goal, simply raising his hands as a show of respect towards his former team.
Lost in an otherwise forgettable defeat at San Jose on Sept. 2, Dan Kennedy made a spectacular save that kept the Quakes from pummeling Chivas even more thoroughly. Marvin Chávez tried to finish off a counterattack by picking out the far post, but Kennedy, sliding over from the right side of the goal area to the left, reached out with his right hand and pushed the shot just wide of the goal. In one fell swoop, Kennedy showed his awareness, agility and quick reflexes, just some of the attributes that helped him make tremendous save after tremendous save throughout 2012.
Dan Kennedy. When things were going good defensively, Kennedy played a large part, racking up acrobatic saves and demonstrating a calming presence in the back. When things fell apart, Kennedy was there to ensure that they did not unravel to catastrophic depths. That Kennedy finished second in Goalkeeper of the Year honors despite giving up 54 goals in 32 games is testament to how well he performed for an otherwise dreary and destitute club.
Oswaldo Minda. The Ecuadorian midfielder developed a bit of a bruising reputation in 2012 by picking up caution after caution. Minda racked up 13 yellow cards in just 22 games, but the cautions were simply side effects of his tough-as-nails play and attitude in the center of the park. On a competent team, Minda possibly could have gotten into the conversation as one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS.
1: Stability: Perhaps this is a pipe dream, especially given the oustings of Fraser and Domene, but the roster needs some consistency. There are enough building blocks within – Minda, Kennedy, Juan Agudelo, Miller Bolaños – that the new regime could simply find pieces to work around the talent that is already there to make it work in 2013. There may not be continuity in the coaching staff or in the front office, but the roster must not be overhauled once more.
2. A consistent goalscorer: Eeny meeny miny ... goals. A competent attack is as good as any place to start filling the holes in this club. Chivas’ defense showed signs of competency in 2012, but the attack was never reliable. A forward who can fill the net would be a good place to start rebuilding belief in the attack and give opponents reason to worry about Chivas. With Bolaños and Ryan Smith providing service from the flanks and Agudelo (right) serving in a complementary role, the opportunity for Chivas to piece together a semblance of an attack is perhaps just one such player away.
3. Show ‘em they care: When Jorge Vergara spoke publicly about Chivas USA on Nov. 13 – the only time he’s done so since becoming full owner – he said he wouldn't have invested heavily in this club if he didn't think he could make it successful. Saying and doing the right things though are two different things, and thus far the message he’s sent to the club’s supporters is not a positive one. His “7-10 day” window for hiring a coach came and went, quietly, and Fraser’s successor is nowhere in sight. It’s already bad enough that neither Vergara nor supervisor of soccer operations José Luis Real reside in Guadalajara. Vergara needs to show that this club is indeed a top priority. Hiring a club icon like Jesse Marsch would be a great step in that direction. Building around popular players such as Agudelo and Kennedy would also help.