[MLS SPOTLIGHT]A day after they had been told that MLS had taken control of their team and bought out their owners, Chivas USA players and coaches were out early for practice at Tucson's Kino Sports Complex like nothing had happened. "Normal practice," said new head coach Wilmer Cabrera. Chivas USA is unbeaten so far in five preseason games, but Cabrera said it has a lot of work to do to get better.
"The communication from the league was clear," he said. "Everything is the same. Our responsibilities are the same: just try to work on the field and get the players organized and continue with their responsibilities."
Thursday's announcement, which came an hour after the team had finished practice, was not a shock to those around Chivas USA.
"It wasn't a surprise," Cabrera said, "because there had been rumors and we were aware of that, but we were just doing our jobs. The only thing that was confirmed was, hey, it happens, so move on."
"The [preseason] results are not important. We need to fix the team, to get them ready for what is coming in the season."
Cabrera, who was an assistant at Colorado last season, doesn't underestimate the task that is ahead of his team that finished last in the Western Conference in 2013 with 6-20-8 record, 18 points behind the team ahead of it the standings, but he likes the attitude of his players.
"That's the most important thing," he said. "We have to work on everything. We have to fix everything. And you just don't fix everything in a few weeks."
Unlike last season when Chivas USA was hastily assembled, it had a lot of pieces in place when Cabrera, the former U.S. U-17 national team coach, took over in January. He has a core of experienced players with Dan Kennedy in goal, former U.S. national team captain Carlos Bocanegra in the back and Argentina Mauro Rosales, acquired from Seattle.
"A balanced team," said Cabrera, "is a team with good experienced guys, role models who can show on and off the field how to do things and also with young guys who can follow them and participate with their energy, mentality and skills and are ready to contribute to the team in all aspects."
Chivas USA acquired another Argentine, defensive midfielder Agustin Pelletieri from Racing, whom Cabrera believes will add a lot to the team right away.
"I like his mentality, his experience, his technique," said Cabrera. "He's been a leader on his team, the captain. He has great technique, he knows how to play, in a very competitive league, one of the best in the world, which is the Argentine league. So he can bring that to the team. He has a lot of games, so he has been very active. It isn't like he is going down."
One of top rookies on the MLS preseason circuit was been Clemson winger Thomas McNamara. "He's smart, talented, he's adjusted very well and technically very good," said Cabrera. "Those components are the ones any coach would like to have in that kind of player."
Cabrera said McNamara was the player rated most highly in the draft by the Chivas USA staff. "We didn't think he was going to last," he said, "but we got lucky."
Chivas USA has brought in Spanish midfielder Dani Fragoso and Argentine forward Leandro Barrera, and both players saw action in the opening game of the Desert Diamond Cup against host FC Tucson. Cabrera intends to sign both players but wants to give both players time to adjust. That also goes for former Mexican international Adolfo Bautista.
"He knows how tough this league is," Cabrera says of Bofo. "How different it is from the Mexican league, not better or worse, just different in all aspects: physically, athletically, play is fast, so he needs to adjust. He wants to be ready and he wants to work."
Last season, Chivas USA brought in eight players on loan from Chivas de Guadalajara, its parent club, but Cabrera confirmed that Erick Torres is the only player left on loan -- through June -- from Guadalajara.
Cabrera said any talk of keeping Torres on after June was a moot point for now.
"We need to be sure the player wants to be here and he looks confident," he said. "He had a great season last year, so he's looking forward to having another good season."