Nelson Rodriguez admits Chivas USA face a long, difficult road this year with a looming sale and subsequent rebranding, but the newly appointed club president could not be more excited for the challenge.
In a 38-minute teleconference with reporters Monday, Rodriguez said he arrived in the Los Angeles area with, above all else, the intent to make the club’s 10th year in MLS a successful one.
“I’m excited to be here. I wanted to be here,” said Rodriguez, who previously spent 14 years in the league office. “There’s an arrogance in me and a belief that I can help a great staff achieve their own goals and start the turnaround.”
Rodriguez, who last week took his post following the league’s acquisition of Chivas USA, said the organization has been invigorated following the sale by former owner Jorge Vergara. The Goats went unbeaten in the preseason, winning three of their eight matches, to build momentum heading into Sunday’s opener against the Chicago Fire at StubHub Center (3 pm ET, UniMas).
The Goats have taken positive steps on other fronts, too. The club, according to Rodriguez, has been in talks with three television entities regarding a one-year broadcast rights deal. Chivas USA announced on Monday an agreement with a local ESPN Deportes Radio affiliate, which will air all regular-season games in 2014.
Despite this being the final season under the Chivas USA name, the club still aims to appeal to a fan base that seeks a soccer alternative in the local landscape, Rodriguez said.
Expectations to produce under first-year head coach Wilmer Cabrera now, though, create a balancing act that Rodriguez said will fall mostly on him. The Rojiblancos have a season to play, while also preparing for what would be a move to another stadium nearby.
“We haven’t made the playoffs in four years,” Rodriguez said. “Everything starts on the field. At the end of the day, Chivas USA is a soccer club. We need our product to be worthy of fans’ attention. Wilmer has a practical approach and I’m grateful for that.
“We should not look or expect us to play a brand of soccer such as Barcelona, Real Madrid or some of the other great clubs in the world,” Cabrera added. “What we should expect and what we will demand of our team is that they will be competitive. We will look to go to goal. We will not just sit and try to save results. We will pursue wins and in the process we hope to gain those.”
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A bounce back performance for the squad that finished at the bottom of the Western Conference standings last year would make the transition phase a whole lot simpler, of course.
“If we have to err on the side of balance, it’s on the side of the present, it’s on the side of the fulfilling our duties and obligations,” Rodriguez said. “The guys in the locker room deserve to be treated like the professionals that they are. We will be doing things in a first-class manner as we move forward.”