Javier Ledesma

Chivas USA remove Rongen as coach

Following a 1-8-1 start, Chivas USA stripped Thomas Rongen of his coaching duties on Monday.

The club named Rongen as the new sporting director. Assistant coach Javier "Zully" Ledesma will take over on an interim basis.

"The decision that we have taken represents a good opportunity for the team," Chivas USA President and Co-Owner Antonio Cue said. "We have 20 games remaining and we feel that gives us enough time to reach the playoffs. The work that Thomas has done since the beginning, the foundation we have established coupled with the new coach and the reinforcements he'll bring in are all important factors in helping the organization meet its short-term goals."

Cue said a new coach has not only been found but that he's agreed to terms on a contract. The only thing holding up the new coach's arrival is visa issues.

"The person who we bring will represent how serious both the people in Guadalajara and here are with this project," Cue said. "Not only has he coached in Mexico but he's coached overseas. He will bring respect to the position and I'm certain he will obtain results."

Rongen's successor could arrive in time for Wednesday's game against Kansas City, but Cue said the club would like to have him in place by Saturday's game at Chicago at the latest.

Cue said the new coach will have final say in several issues, including a coaching staff and reinforcements. However, Cue said assistants Ledesma and Martin Vasquez will remain with the team.

Players said they felt they were to blame for Rongen's downfall.

"I apologized to Thomas personally in front of the team and in his own office. I was sorry to see him go and I was sorry we didn't fight for him like we should have," Chivas USA defender Ryan Suarez said. "At the end of the day a good coach and a good person is without a job."

Defender Ezra Hendrickson said Rongen took the fall for the team's shortcomings.

"We are just not playing good soccer right now," Hendrickson said. "The players, we take the blame for that. Thomas doesn't go out there and play the games on Saturday night. We're the ones that go out there, and we're the ones that are making mistakes."

Chivas USA has just four points out of a possible 30. The club has dropped four consecutive matches after winning its first game, a 1-0 win over fellow expansion side Real Salt Lake on May 7. In the past two matches, Chivas USA has lost to FC Dallas by a 5-2 score and the Galaxy 2-0, both at Home Depot Center.

But while Rongen failed to get results, he did not fail in giving a full effort, said keeper Brad Guzan.

"He definitely gave his all and put everything he had into the team," Guzan said. "It's unfortunate we couldn't get better results for him. In the end, he's the one that everyone looks at and says 'Hey, what aren't you doing right?' The guys on the field ultimately have to get results and we didn't do that the last 10 games and he paid the price."

Rongen said this move was in the works since the beginning, saying that at some point he would take his work over to the front office and leave the coaching position vacant. The timing, though, was not what he had expected.

"When I first talked to Antonio, we talked about a long-term relationship and we talked about a long-term project," he said. "It's a little earlier than I anticipated but that's the nature of the beast. I understand that results will ultimately dictate the fate of the coach and I have no problems with the respect this organization has shown me."

From his first dealings with Rongen, Cue said he felt comfortable about having the Dutchman as part of Chivas USA and his feelings have not changed since then.

"He did an exceptional job in selecting the players, helping build this team and that's why he is still with us today," Cue said. "It is vital to keep quality people around."

Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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