Thomas Rongen (left) has been the U.S. under-20 national team coach since 2001.

Rongen named first CD Chivas USA coach

especially for a club where Vergara has indicated a desire to maintain a Hispanic (and specifically Mexican) heritage -- Rongen is a native of the Netherlands and came up through the Ajax system and coaching school, just like CD Guadajalara's sporting director, Hans Westerhof.

"I [have a] knowledge of Chivas in Guadalajara, since I've been there many times with MLS teams in preseason," Rongen said, "and my son actually went there for two months a few years back to train with their youth academy because I think there are some similarities between their academy and the Ajax academy philosophy where I came from in the Netherlands."

Along with the introduction of a new head coach and assistant coach (Javier "Zully" Ledesma"), the team revealed it's new name, identity and colors. 'Chivas' is the nickname for the Guadalajara-based club named "Club Deportivo Guadalajara" or "CD Guadalajara," which plays in the Mexican soccer league.

In seeking to preserve the connection to the tradition and history of its Guadalajara roots, the CD Chivas USA logo keeps several features of the CD Guadalajara logo intact, with the most significant difference between the two coming in the name of the club. The logo design, which dates back to 1908, contains the shield of the city of Guadalajara and the traditional uniform colors of the club in Mexico, which were originally selected based on the red and white striped jerseys of the Brussels-based Belgian club for which the founder of the team once played.

"The name, colors and shield of CD Guadalajara have come to represent pride, honor and passion for millions of the club's fans in Mexico and around the world," said general manager Whit Haskel.

An intimate knowledge of both MLS and the U.S. soccer development system -- both highly important factors for CD Chivas USA -- accompanies Rongen to The Home Depot Center. He has held coaching positions in six of Major League Soccer's nine seasons, dating back to the league's inaugural campaign in 1996 when he led the Tampa Bay Mutiny to an impressive 20-12 record.

In 1997 he made the move to the New England Revolution, where he walked the sidelines for two seasons before replacing current U.S. national team head coach Bruce Arena as head coach for D.C. United. In his first season with the Black-and-Red, Rongen led the squad to their third championship in four seasons with an impressive 23-9 record in the regular season. He remained at United for two more difficult seasons in which United failed to make the MLS Cup Playoffs before being replaced by Ray Hudson prior to the 2002 season.

That didn't stop Rongen though, as he accepted the job of head coach of the U.S. under-20 national team on Dec. 26, 2001. In that capacity he worked with the nation's top young players, helping to produce a many players that are experiencing success both at home in MLS and abroad.

The high point of Rongen's international career came at the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championships in the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. had an impressive showing, making it all the way to the quarterfinals where they fell eventually fell to Argentina 2-1 in overtime. Rongen's squad was able to post tournament victories against Paraguay, South Korea and Ivory Coast.

"I feel that I have a very good understanding of what's required in MLS to be successful as a player, what those players that will come here can expect, and I will translate that to them," Rongen said. "Foremost, I think we're trying to put a team on the field that can be competitive from the opening day and has some influences that will carry over from Guadalajara but will have its own identity as well."

A graduate of the coaches' training school at AFC Ajax, one of most successful player development clubs in the world, Rongen first came to this country in 1979 when he signed with the Los Angeles Aztecs of the North American Soccer League, brought over by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. His professional playing career also included stints with the Washington Diplomats and Fort Lauderdale Strikers, taking his first job as a coach in 1989 when he was also a player with the American Soccer League version of the Strikers.

"This team [CD Chivas USA] -- and it's no disrespect toward any other team -- will be the truest team to a central, South American, European flavor," Rongen said. "There will be more media attention. The fans will be not necessarily more educated, but more passionate about their team, which means they're more opinionated and stronger about wins and losses, which I think is healthy.

"This league will have a great opportunity to see what passion and tradition is all about when they see the Chivas fans follow this team, not only at home, but surely on the road as well. I would only welcome that. It's part of the business. I love those challenges. I don't shy away from expectations. They should be there as long as they're realistic. I can't wait to roll up the sleeves and get to work."

Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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