Gringo Report: A different kind of Chivas USA in Oakland?
GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Stand aside, Jorge Vergara. There’s a new team in California with links south of the border and big ambition.
The club goes by the name CD Aguiluchos USA, plays in Oakland and is hoping to rally the Salvadoran community as it attempts to scale the ladder of domestic soccer in the United States.
“Our goal is to get to MLS between 2018 and 2020,” the team's ambitious president, Roger Amaya, told MLSsoccer.com by phone this week. “We’re working hard and slowly to make the base very strong so big things happen.”
With a love of Salvadoran giants CD Águila at their core – Amaya says he is the No. 1 fan – Aguiluchos USA got some good news this month with the announcement that they will be playing next season in the National Premier Soccer League, which is considered the fourth tier of the American game.
Fielding mainly with players of Salvadoran descent gives the team a unique identity, and league president Andy Zorovich is delighted the team is joining.
“It’s really neat because we’ve not had anyone with an El Salvador connection before in the league,” Zorovich told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday.
One party not yet officially on board is CD Águila themselves, despite Amaya having meetings with the club.
But if club officials down south haven’t warmed to having an official sister club in the United States, legends of CD Águila have taken interest in the project, most noticeably Argentine coach Hugo Coria, who scored a total of 105 goals for CD Águila and managed the club in two different spells, winning three Salvadoran first-division titles as coach.
“It’s a pleasure and an honor for them to have considered me for this project,” Coria said in a press conference announcing his arrival as head coach last month. “I hope to use all my experience for this new activity coaching in the USA and to help the club reach its goals.”
It’s a big reputation he brings to the small Bay Area club with a bold logo that includes representations of both the US and the Salvadoran flags, and an eagle thrown in for good measure.
Recent indications bode well for the club, which won the American National Soccer League championship and has been getting a steady stream of press in both English and Spanish since being announced as new arrivals in the NPSL.
Chivas USA co-owner Vergara, meanwhile, was keen to stress recently that Chivas USA would be strengthening their Mexican roots, but also seeking to represent the broad multicultural landscape of Los Angeles.
Amaya has similar ideas. He is keen to state that his club is very much American at heart.
“The door is open to everyone and we’re concentrated 100 percent on the USA,” he said. “Our goal is to create opportunities for college kids in our academy who want to play professional soccer.”
The plans are extravagant, with a reserve side in the process of being setup, as well as a youth academy with a range of teams from U-6 to U-17 level.
Sponsors are coming raound and Amaya has taken calls from people who would like to move the club to Los Angeles and even as far away as Maryland, but it will stay in Oakland, at least for the time being.
Next year, the club will be in the US Open Cup, where it could potentially meet a team in the from the higher ranks, all the way up to Major League Soccer.
“Hopefully you guys will hear of me again very soon,” Amara said. “In MLS.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.