[MLS] After opening training camp at Home Depot Center late last week, Chivas USA has moved north for nine days of training near San Luis Obispo with a squad already radically different than the one with which it finished the 2010 season. Forward Maykel Galindo, winger Rodolfo Espinoza and defender Dario Delgado have been cut loose by new head coach Robin Fraser, and among the “new” faces in the organization are two former Chivas USA players.
"We’re moving on and moving forward,” said Fraser.
He’s also gone back to the past by bringing in former Chivas USA midfielder Francisco Mendoza as a non-roster player, along with a Guadalajara academy product, goalkeeper Sergio Arias, and ex-Mexican national team defender Joaquin Beltran.
Mendoza, one of the team’s most popular players, appeared 111 times in the stripes before leaving in 2008. He’s since played for several clubs in the Mexican league. Along with MLS veterans Jimmy Conrad (signed via the Re-Entry Draft) and Alejandro Moreno (traded from Vancouver after being claimed in the Expansion Draft), Chivas USA has brought back another of its former players, Mexican international defender Claudio Suarez, as a consultant.
Ecuadoran striker Victor Estupinan and Akron defender Zarek Valentin were picked in the MLS SuperDraft to further re-shape a team that last year finished last in the Western Conference at 8-18-4 (28 points), 18 points out of a playoff spot.
The Fraser Era is just beginning, but he and assistant coach Greg Vanney have accepted the assurances of owner Antonio Cue and general manager Jose Domene that the coaching staff will be empowered to run its operations unfettered. Fraser is the sixth head coach hired since Chivas USA played its first league match in 2005.
“We wouldn’t have taken these positions if we didn’t think so,” said Fraser. “In terms of direction, they’re about building from the ground up, about building a foundation for something that can be successful for a long time as opposed to a good year here and a good year there kind of thing. That’s a pleasing thing for us. We think they’re committed to the long-term success of the league and we’re going to help build the foundation to achieve that.
“I’ve had discussions with the owner and the general manager, and I’m extremely comfortable with how things are going to be done here.”
Cuban defector Galindo netted 12 goals in his first MLS season (2007), but labored through concussions and other injuries the past few years. He finished the 2010 season on loan with Tampa Bay of USSF Division II. Espinoza and Delgado, additions made last year by predecessor Martin Vasquez, were seldom impressive.
Arias played for the Mexico U-17 team that won the world championship in 2005, and former international Beltran has played more than 400 Mexican league matches for UNAM, Necaxa, Cruz Azul and his last club, Queretaro.
After Chivas USA selected him in the Re-Entry Draft, Conrad discussed and signed a contract without knowing who his head coach would be. “While I was negotiating I didn’t know for sure,” said Conrad, who last week was in Southern California house-hunting and checking out schools in anticipation of his wife and daughter moving west from Kansas City, where he played 204 games and scored 17 goals the last eight seasons.
Reports that Chivas USA had hired former Red Bulls’ coach Juan Carlos Osorio turned out to be wrong, and the club also discussed the position with former Fire head coach Denis Hamlett and ex-U.S. head coach Steve Sampson. With no disrespect to the other men, Conrad likes the choice.
“I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Robin had been hired and I think it’s an excellent decision by the organization,” said Conrad. “He feels he has something to prove and can take this team in the right direction. I’m looking forward to it.”