SmorgasBorg: Who is Chelis? MLS' version of Rex Ryan
He's Rex Ryan with a sprinkle of Ozzie Guillen and a dash of Mike Ditka.
For the US sports audience, that recipe could help sum up the personality that José Luis Sánchez Solá — popularly known as "El Chelís" — will be exporting to MLS from Mexico after being named as new Chivas USA head coach on Wednesday.
LA Galaxy boss Bruce Arena is just about to get a run for his money for title of larger-than-life coaching personality in MLS while that LA derby gets ratcheted up a few notches.
Because just like Arena, Chelís doesn't care what you think and he won't back down from anyone. Although he says the years have made him "less visceral," he's still a straight-talker who'll be at the ready to verbally spar with anyone: fellow coaches, media, even with his owner. He's done it in the past.
That's the reason some are so surprised Chelís even got the Chivas USA job to begin with. They wonder how he can possibly get along with outspoken Chivas USA co-owner Jorge Vergara. According to Chelís, he admits the two are very similar, which could mean sparks will be flying before long.
But how's this for outspoken: Before Chelís was even hired, here's how he decided to ingratiate himself to his 18 colleagues in the coaching fraternity:
"I believe that in MLS almost all the teams play the same," he said last week in an interview with MedioTiempo.com. "I don't have the sensibility to do what they do over there: It could be good as far as points and achievements, but I don't think I have the profile to play that kind of soccer."
Let's get one thing right about Chelís: He may talk a good game about being attack-minded and his teams do push forward in games, but they're usually pragmatic about it. Even in his most successful spell as coach with Mexico's Puebla, he's not been a coach who is known for his style or his systems. instead, he's a charismatic man-motivator first and foremost, who is most effective at creating an "us-against-the-world" atmosphere around his team.
He helped his hometown Puebla reestablish their place in the Mexican top flight using a core of wily veterans and a fair share of resignation threats, only to withdraw them after his team captured a massive league result. That's merely one tactic that Chelís has employed in his motivational bag of tricks.
Getting fired and re-hired a few times at Puebla was probably also part of the shtick, as is his sideline routine. Whether he's flinging his sport jacket or launching a tantrum at the referees — things are about to get interesting for the MLS Disciplinary Committee -- TV broadcasters would do well to assign a "Chelís Cam" during matches and tape his post-game press conferences.
That dais, where his fiery passion will have his eyes popping out of that glistening bald head more often than not, could prove the site of the most interesting facet of this multi-cultural experiment. Given his limited English, it will be fascinating to see whether the most brash Spanish-language statements made by the new Goats boss will carry over into the mainstream US soccer press.
Here was the answer by Chelís when he faced a tongue-in-cheek introductory English-language question by the hosts on Mexico's ESPN Radio Formula asking whether he was going to Chivas USA.
"Your sister? How's your sister?"
Exactly. There's nothing politically correct about El Chelís — in fact, he did some side work with a political party in Mexico while he was Puebla head coach -- and for that reason he will be a breath of fresh air, a show unto himself in MLS. Unless the entire set-up goes haywire, self-combusts and goes all-Rafa Márquez on Chivas USA.
Chelís says he'd love to have the retired Adolfo "El Bofo" Bautista on Chivas USA, calling him "a great player." Anyone who follows Mexican soccer knows that "El Bofo" is merely a shell of the player he once was. It's a statement that would lead some to believe that Chelís could be underestimating the task at hand. He says it's still 11-v-11 in the USA.
"The biggest difference is the language," he said to Futbol Picante when asked to compare Mexican and American soccer. "I can't express myself in English. The English language doesn’t have enough verbs for what I do and what I say.
"But it's not about the language … The ball is round for everyone," he told ESPN's Radio Formula. "We want the soccer we play to give emotions to the people in the stadium."
The emotions, good and bad, won't be lacking with Chelís around. Perhaps similar to the pre-Rex Ryan New York Jets in the NFL, indifference is now a thing of the past for Chivas USA.
And just wait until he learns some English.