GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Chivas Guadalajara and Chivas USA sporting director Dennis te Kloese didn’t look comfortable in the press conference here last month to announce his new position.
Journalists asking quick-fire questions in search of the next day’s headline just didn’t seem to suit his style.
But chat at length with the Dutchman and you realize quickly that he plans long term, talks with substance not sound-bytes, has a deep understanding of soccer both sides of the border and possesses a steely drive as he confronts the biggest job in his career to date.
Finding the harmony between the Guadalajara and Southern California base of Chivas that has been missing in recent years is a key part of new role, he told MLSsoccer.com in an interview here on Tuesday.
The basic premise of how he wants the sister clubs to work is actually quite simple.
Te Kloese has opened up virtually every department at the Guadalajara club to its northern sister. That means that the medical, nutrition, scouting, youth development and administration expertise that exists in Guadalajara will be extended to Chivas USA and the heads of each area will split their time working between the two clubs.
As head of youth development, José Luis Real spent last week in California at Chivas USA, lending advice and checking out players in the youth system. Te Kloese said Real was “pleasantly surprised” with what he saw.
“The closer we can make the connection, the more we give importance to the project of Chivas USA, the more important it will get,” said te Kloese.
The former director of youth in the Mexican federation (FMF) and at Tigres UANL sees Chivas USA’s production of youth players as an essential part of the new “identity” that everyone seems to be driving home, perhaps even more so than demanding that players be Mexican in background.
“I think the main thing [for Chivas USA] is our youth development,” emphasized te Kloese. “At some point, it will be a very good source of players in Chivas USA, like it has been in Chivas here for many years.”
That means opening, and not closing, doors at the club based on players’ ethnicity.
“I think that the club needs to reflect its fanbase,” te Kloese said. “Obviously, Los Angeles is very diverse. You can never close the door for anybody because we are part of MLS and part of a huge soccer community within Los Angeles.”
That location is something te Kloese is keen to take advantage of, pointing to his belief that it’s still possible in the US to spot a highly talented 16-year-old player that can be snapped up. Roughly speaking, the plan is predicated on Chivas Guadalajara’s know-how helping Chivas USA capture that talent and bring it within the club.
Where it all gets slightly complicated is with Chivas Guadalajara’s Mexican-only policy and the movement of players between the two institutions. Guadalajara will not allow their players to suit up for a foreign national team, and te Kloese thinks it would be “very difficult” to change that policy.
“There is a certain essence to Chivas Guadalajara that is part of the tradition and part of the vision of the owners," he said. "I think that’s part of the charm of Chivas Guadalajara."
But he also stressed that the national team issue is personal for individual players and their families, and that no undue influence will be pressed upon players to forfeit the US national team in order to play in Guadalajara.
“It will be a case-by-case thing, but we need to create an importance for Chivas USA and, for us, Chivas USA having players represent national teams is an important thing,” he said, adding, “I don’t think that US Soccer or anybody else should be worried about what we do. We will always do what is best for the players. We will look for good solutions between clubs or options for the players.”
One recent example of the dilemma is US U-20 left back Juan Pablo Ocegueda (right, in yellow), who has been in Guadalajara with Chivas on loan from Tigres, but will likely move north to Chivas USA because of his commitments to the US federation.
Te Kloese is far from a newcomer when it comes to such issues. He worked as scouting director at Chivas Guadalajara and then as director of soccer at Chivas USA between 2005 and '08.
Since then, he’s kept a close eye on developments north of the border and accepts Chivas USA have taken steps backwards. Getting the club moving forward, however, will not be an overnight sensation.
“Certain [MLS] rules and regulations don’t allow you to make big changes, so it takes a little bit of time,” he said.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.