CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA understand that success in MLS isn't something obtained overnight.
For that reason, the Rojiblancos have enlisted several former league veterans to bring their knowledge to the club's youth program.
Led by former Chivas midfielder Mike Muñoz and former LA Galaxy defender Dan Calichman, the Rojiblancos youth program has flourished since the start of their season in September. Both the U-16 and U-18 teams sit near the top of the SoCal Division in the US Soccer Development Academy with a number of notable victories, including one against reigning USSDA champions Pateadores.
Muñoz joins Chivas USA after a stint with the Real Salt Lake-Arizona academy where he served as U-16 coach as well as the interim director of the academy following the departure of current Chivas assistant coach Greg Vanney. Muñoz and Calichman were integrated immediately into the Chivas coaching staff as part of the club's goal to create a unified playing style across all age groups.
“We have a great staff, obviously the continuity between the first team all the way down to the U-9s is great,” Muñoz told MLSsoccer.com. “We want to build a system here, we want to build a proper system and we have all the right pieces in place here.”
The two coaches aren’t the only members of the youth program who have spent time rubbing shoulders with the first team, either. Along with the coaching staff, a number of Chivas U-18s have been training alongside first-team veterans such as Heath Pearce and Dan Kennedy.
Forward Ben Spencer and midfielder Marki Delgado, along with other youth standouts, have also seen considerable time with the Chivas reserve squad. For players like Delgado and Spencer to find success, club management believes players who have played at the highest level must shape their development.
“In order for guys to understand what being a professional means, we need to have guys who have been professionals at the highest level so that they can teach them how to be a professional,” general manager José Domene said. “At the end of the day, I think they're great coaches, great people and great teachers. A lot of guys forget that the youth system is not about winning. It's about learning to be compete, developing and teaching.”
Muñoz stepped into a program that has one profound difference from the one he was a part of in Arizona. Unlike RSL, Chivas does not have a residency program, where youth players live and train together. Rather, Chivas train several times a week while the participants live and attend school on their own.
In order to combat this potential disadvantage, Munoz believes he must combine being a good soccer coach as well as a good teacher.
“Education and training are important because they've got to be fully engaged for the hour or two hours that we have them,” Muñoz said. “Education on the field is important as well as making sure that they're taking care of themselves and that they're staying on top of their grades as well.”
Chivas' youth teams continue their season this weekend when they face off against the San Diego Surf in the San Diego Soccer Showcase. It is their final match before an important December, when the young Rojiblancos take on noted youth powers in the Dallas Texans and Houston Dynamo.
“Those are good, quality games for our guys,” Muñoz said. “We have four games left for the remainder of this year. It's great because it's more exposure, more meaningful games for us.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.