3. MLS COUNTDOWN: Not-so-Mexican Chivas USA enters Year 3

By Mike Woitalla
Senior Editor


The uniform remains a red-and-white striped jersey that's said to stir Mexican pride like the tricolor flag with the snake-chomping eagle.

The players? Not so Mexican. Going into its third MLS season, Chivas USA's key player signings are a Honduran, a Romanian, a Cuban and an Englishman. Its new head coach is Preki, who hails from the former Yugoslavia.

Gone from last season are Mexican stars Juan Francisco Palencia and Juan Pablo Garcia, who combined for 16 goals and 11 assists while helping it to the first round of the playoffs.

Preki became the team's fourth head coach early this year; none have been Mexican. He was promoted from assistant coach when Bob Bradley took the U.S. national team job. Preki hired as assistant coach Zoran Savic, who like Preki left Serbia to play indoor pro soccer in the USA.

Honduran Amado Guevara, who arrives from the Red Bulls, is to replace Garcia in a playmaker's role. Preki acquired Romanian right back Alex Zotinca from Kansas City, where the two played together in 2003-2005. Palencia's replacement is Cuban Maykel Galindo, who defected while playing for Cuba in the 2005 Gold Cup. He hooked up with the Seattle Sounders, for which he scored in its victory in the 2005 USL-1 final.

Speedy Galindo is to partner on the frontline with Ante Razov, Chivas USA's leading scorer last season with 14 goals and eight assists.

Another attacking option is rookie John Cunliffe, a Brit out of Fort Lewis College who was Chivas USA's top pick in the 2007 SuperDraft. He scored 75 Division II goals and 62 assists in four years and also lit it up in the USL Premier Development League.

Jesse Marsch, the 12-year MLS veteran, returns to handle defensive midfield duties in his second year with the club. To his left will be dynamic Francisco Mendoza, the only leftover from the group of Chivas Guadalajara's Second Division players brought in during Chivas USA's first season.

Chivas USA's biggest Mexican star is 38-year-old Claudio Suarez, the Mexico's most-capped player in history. Soccer America rated Suarez, who scored six goals, the second best central defender in the league last season. Suarez's central defense partner is Jason Hernandez, a New Jerseyan of Puerto Rican descent.

Also returning is 2006 rookie of the year Jonathan Bornstein, a Southern California native whose mother is Mexican-American. Bornstein, who scored in his U.S. debut in January, a 3-1 win over Denmark, is penciled in as left back, but he also played in midfield and upfront last season and his versatility will likely prove valuable again in 2007.

The Mexico lite formula for a club whose attraction for Mexican-American fans lies in its association with Chivas Guadalajara, the only Mexican league club that fields only Mexicans, will test the team's popularity. Despite making the playoffs in its second season after finishing 2005 with the league's worst record, attendance dropped by 2,000 per game, to 14,725.

CHIVAS USA PRESEASON ROSTER
Goalkeepers
NO. PLAYER ('06 TEAM)

18 Brad Guzan (Chivas USA)
22 Preston Burpo (Chivas USA)
Defenders
NO. PLAYER ('06 TEAM)

2 Claudio Suarez (Chivas USA)
3 Carlos Llamosa (Chivas USA)
4 Cameron Dunn (UC Irvine)
5 Desmond Brooks (St. Mary's College)
8 Jorge Barrera (Queretaro, Mexico)
21 Jason Hernandez (Chivas USA)
23 Alex Zotinca (Kansas City Wizards)
25 Lawson Vaughn (Chivas USA)
27 Eder Robles (Chivas USA)
77 Orlando Perez (Chivas USA)
Midfielders
NO. PLAYER ('06 TEAM)
6 Francisco Mendoza (Chivas USA)
15 Jesse Marsch (Chivas USA)
16 Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA)
17 Rodrigo Lopez (Chivas USA)
20 Amado Guevara (New York Red Bulls)
28 Erasmo Solorzano (UC Riverside)
30 Carlos Borja (Chivas USA)
33 Mohammed Sethi (Milwaukee Croatian Eagles)
Forwards
NO. PLAYER ('06 TEAM)
9 Ante Razov (Chivas USA)
11 Maykel Galindo (Seattle Sounders)
12 John Cunliffe (Fort Lewis College)
13 Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA)
14 David Arvizu (New York Red Bulls)
19 Matt Taylor (Chivas USA)
32 Anthony Hamilton (UC Irvine)

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