CARSON, Calif. – José Luis “Chelís” Sánchez Solá might not have the paparazzi following him around town, but Chivas USA’s head coach says he’s at least recognizable to fans in Southern California.
That’s what’s most important, after all.
Chelís (above, top center) says he’s often approached at restaurants frequented by “immigrants who humbly came to work in this country,” including waiters and cooks. They ask for photographs, and his smile grows wider with every request.
“It truly fills me with joy,” Chelís told MLSsoccer.com.
It’s the Mexican coaching veteran’s intention to raise awareness of the club in a city where Chivas USA exist in the sizeable shadow of the two-time defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy. It’s his duty, Chelís says, to at least spark interest for the beleaguered team by changing the public perception of Chivas, who have failed to make the MLS Cup playoffs for the past three straight seasons.
That’s not lost on the players, who have had a front-row seat to the club’s offseason mission to strengthen the connection between Los Angeles and Guadalajara.
“I’ve never played over there, but the coaching staff has a good idea of how things work and they’re trying to do their best to implement that here while also not losing sight that we are in the US,” forward Tristan Bowen explained. “[Chelís] is trying to infuse the two together, so in time, I think you’ll see more of a complete structure. It’s only going to take time until we see what the end product is.”
Chelís recently met with several fans for a meet-and-greet meal at a restaurant not far from the Home Depot Center. He learned what supporters expect from him and the club, and the energetic coach also used the meeting to relay his own expectations. He knows winning is the only thing that will boost the club’s image.
Supporters have braved chilly morning temperatures to watch Chivas USA in their preseason scrimmages, something Sánchez Solá hopes is only an indication of things to come.
“They tell me they root all game, so I said, ‘OK, it’s one thing to say it, but let’s see you do it,’” Chelís said after last weekend’s scrimmage with UC Irvine. “They’re consistent all game and I was very grateful to hear that from them. My main objective is to please the fans. I hope what we do on the field is pleasing to them.”