CARSON, Calif. – José Luis “Chelís” Sánchez Solá promised lots of new things when he was hired as Chivas USA’s head coach. New players, new identity, new approach to the game. It’s not just an overhaul, but a reimagining of how the club goes about their business.
That includes on the training field, where Chelís has become borderline obsessive about minutiae. For instance, he has laid tape on the pitch and been meticulous with his placement of assistants during practice – two things he says aren’t common in MLS.
“The difficulty lies in the fact that, here, players aren’t used to doing a lot of things,” Sánchez Solá told MLSsoccer.com. “These are things that aren’t done only in Mexico.”
For both coach and players, the acclimation process has been slow but productive, with both sides gaining an understanding for what’s expected. Sánchez Solá, whose lack of familiarity with the squad has not prevented him from being vocal, has made an impression through the meet-and-greet stage.
“It’s very different from what we’re used to on this side of the border,” 21-year-old forward Tristan Bowen said. “But, so far, our training is mostly based on being aggressive both offensively and defensively when we win the ball. We’re trying to win the ball within eight seconds and immediately get to goal. The guys are working hard to adapt as quickly as possible so we can move forward.”
Added midfielder Jorge Villafaña: “He’s a coach that’s always talking, always giving us tips, and it’s something positive for us. What he says is always a form of encouragement.”
Sánchez Solá specifically pointed to two camp observations: the use of tape on the field – which limits available space and raises tempo – and a need for more assistant coaches. Still, his intent is to make the best of what he has and instill an aggressive mindset before introducing an overarching strategic plan.
As the club prepared on Thursday for its March 2 opener against the Columbus Crew, Chelís yelled out instructions, his voice resonating through the rain-soaked grounds. He asked players to push the tempo as an assistant coach translated his message to the club’s English-speakers nearby.
Sánchez Solá, a self-proclaimed motivator, hopes to build Chivas USA’s new identity one exclamation point at a time.
“I see myself as a power generator,” he said. “I inject them with electricity. Everyone wants to win, and that’s my method. I coach soccer. I don’t have my players watching motivational movies. I’m training them in soccer.”
Chelís even likens his adjustment to MLS, as well as the implementation of new training methods, to marriage.
“Until you start living together, you just don’t know anything,” he said. “You don’t know what matrimony is until you’re in it. Yes, I knew about this league, but it isn’t until now that I’ve learned about it. Every day I try to wake up very early and go to sleep very late so I can learn more.”