GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Chivas USA players have probably heard all the stories about their outspoken new coach José Luis Sánchez, popularly known as “El Chelís.” The man himself admits he's unorthodox and proud of it.
But they have no idea what they're really in for.
So says his son, former Canada U-23 international Isidro Sánchez, who tells MLSsoccer.com that he he will be part of his father's coaching staff at Chivas USA alongside Joaquín Velázquez, Walter Fleitas, Osvaldo Scansetti and incumbent assistant coach Carlos Llamosa and goalkeeper coach Daniel Gonzalez. Chivas USA did not respond to requests for comment.
Sánchez, 25, was involved with Puebla for 12 years before retiring in 2011, featuring from youth- to first-division level, mainly under Chelís' tutelage.
But unlike his father, who is facing the daunting task of joining a long line of foreign coaches who came to MLS cold and struggled, Sánchez does have experience with soccer north of Mexico. In fact, he was part of the Canada squad that narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and helped knock Mexico out of the competition. The former forward was able to suit up for the Canadians thanks to his mother, who lived there for a time with her family when she was a kid.
Since retiring in early 2011 in order to remain in Puebla after the club wanted to offload him to a second-division team, Sánchez has worked alongside former Mexico international Alberto García Aspe as host of a weekly soccer television program, completed a degree in psychology and opened his own Crossfit training center.
Next on the agenda is the big move north to Los Angeles to help his father at Chivas USA.
“I’ll be helping him out with his work, scouting, editing videos and I’m going to start a masters in sports psychology,” said Sánchez, who added that he will also be partly responsible in doing English-Spanish translation for his father.
While admitting that the language barrier may be a problem at the start, Sánchez is confident his father can succeed in MLS.
“[I think he will] because his idea is very clear and simple,” said Sánchez. “I think success at Puebla, for a time at Estudiantes and at Correcaminos was based on the player being 100 percent convinced of what my father wanted.”
Sánchez says Chelís’ footballing philosophy is based on intensity, quick passing, attacking intent and moving the ball forward as rapidly as possible into the opposition’s box.
“He always says he’s been a fan of football for 46 years and a coach for seven years,” explained Sanchez. “He wants people to have fun watching games and believes that with attacking football, people will have fun.”
In Mexico, Chelís has a reputation for his somewhat unorthodox means of player motivation, and Sánchez described one particular occasion when players turned up for the morning stretching and warm-up session in the hotel before an important game that same night.
“My dad said, ‘Wait! We’re not going to do that. You have 30 minutes to come up with a mime routine,’” reminisced Sánchez.
What followed left hotel staff wondering what on earth was going on. One player dressed up as Diego Maradona to sing a famous song about the Argentine legend, another as salsa singer Celia Cruz and the squad took turns at singing songs in their makeshift costumes.
“It was a lot of fun,” Sánchez said. “At times, there is a lot of pressure and tedium, but with things like that, we forgot it all. The happier the player is, the more he will be able to give.”
Other examples of Chelís’ odd motivational tactics throughout his coaching career include raffling off flat-screen TVs one year and a system of point-scoring in training to see which players would get to go to preseason in another.
“The principal idea that I think differentiates my father from other trainers is treating the player as a person, above all,” said Sánchez.
The Mexican-Canadian also has a message for Chivas USA fans, some of whom have doubts about the appointment of his father as coach and the proposed “re-Mexicanization” of the club.
“Fundamental over there is having the Mexican-Latino and Chivas touch without forgetting that we are in the United States,” he said. “We know the respect and influence that we have to give to all the fans and the players born in the United States.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.