Chivas USA's Nelson Rodriguez: Sunday's attendance "nowhere near where we'd like to be"
CARSON, Calif. – Nelson Rodriguez was asked on Sunday about the attendance at Chivas USA’s 2014 season opener against the Chicago Fire, and the new team president didn’t mince words.
“Just look around,” Rodriguez told reporters during halftime of Chivas 3-2 win at StubHub Center "The answer is pretty evident. We’re nowhere near where we’d like to be [when it comes to stadium attendance]."
An announced crowd of 8,320 was present at the afternoon match, in line with announced attendance figures for the club in 2013. The figure was also more than 5,000 spectators fewer than the second-smallest crowd around the league over the weekend.
“I had no illusions that just a change in ownership group, or my or coach [Wilmer] Cabrera’s arrival was going to suddenly signal a change,” Rodriguez noted.
“The fans need to see a tangible difference, and it will take time to win them over. That’s why our mission is on a daily basis to get better and to do the right things in the right way.”
Though there is uncertainty over the next phase of the team, which will be rebranded and hopefully under new ownership next year, the new president, instated by MLS following the league’s purchase of the club from Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes last month, emphasized that they needed to reach out to fans on multiple fronts.
“We have to do more to have more fans in our games. That’s not just marketing though, that’s being a good neighbor in the community," Rodriguez explained. “That’s involvement of our players and staff in important community events, serving as a good neighbor whenever and where we can, and at times perhaps even leading in the community.”
In addition to outreach, Rodriguez said Chivas, who have failed to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs the last four seasons, need to improve their on-field product in order to truly appeal to fans in a busy Los Angeles market: “The biggest advertisement that we can do is string some victories together, play some good soccer, and then little by little the bandwagon will expand."
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As the team finishes the Chivas USA era with one final season, Rodriguez did make it clear that the franchise would be looking to better establish itself as a different option to local rivals LA Galaxy, and head in a somewhat new direction from that taken by the previous owners. But he pointedly did not call the team across StubHub Center hall by their name.
“We know this is a big market, we know there’s a viable alternative to the other team that plays here,” he offered.
“We’re going to look to become that alternative, and be very inclusive in that process and very representative of the community in which we live.”