CARSON, Calif. — With the Sept. 15 roster deadline looming, Chivas USA came into the week looking to solidify their squad. In this case, that means cutting a player loose.
Chivas USA original Francisco “Panchito” Mendoza, who rejoined the club at the start of this season after a stint in Mexican soccer but saw scant minutes during his second go-round with the Rojiblancos, was released just before the Labor Day weekend. According to head coach Robin Fraser, it was a move that needed to be made as the Goats look to battle for a playoff spot with only two months left in the season.
“We just felt like it was time for us to go in a different direction,” said Fraser. “With us, we’re trying to make things as tight as possible at the end of the season and I got the impression that he wasn’t happy.
“At the end of the day, for us, we just want to make sure that the people here want to be in the fight,” Fraser added. “I say to any of the players if they’re not happy, then I will try my best to accommodate their request to leave.”
Mendoza returned to the Rojiblancos on loan from sister club Chivas de Guadalajara during preseason amidst great fanfare, with his image being used as a key part of Chivas USA’s 2011 marketing campaign. Although Mendoza enjoyed great success during his first stint with the Goats from 2005-08, he struggled to get on the field this season, starting just twice in 11 appearances.
The winger had played primarily in the reserve league, making six starts and notching three assists.
Mendoza's release comes just as he was set to become the all-time appearance leader for Chivas USA. He now sits tied with Jonathan Bornstein at 123 appearances.
With a roster slot now open, Fraser admits that the club is still looking to use its top spot in the MLS allocation order. However, there are hurdles to cross for the Goats if they wish to do so.
“There are possibilities and we’re always looking,” said Fraser. “It’s about finding the right player. We’ve had roster spot issues before, but we still have salary-cap issues and we’re trying to do all that we can.”
While it is still unknown if the club will use their top spot in the allocation order ahead of the deadline, Fraser has brought in a pair of defenders from the lower divisions to trial with the Rojiblancos: Mark Bloom, who played with the Charlotte Eagles of USL Pro, and Mattias Schnorf, a former Switzerland Under-21 international currently with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL.
Although neither may be the answer for the Chivas USA, Fraser has stressed that the Goats will continue to look for anyone who can help in their push for the playoffs.
“[The free roster spot] gives us an opportunity at this last stretch to see if there is anyone that we think we can pick up for these last seven games,” he said. “It’s just an opportunity for us to look at some more players. … The thoughts are that if we can find someone who is going to help our team, then we will.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano