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What now for Chivas?

12/29/2010

Word that Juan Carlos Osorio was Chivas USA's choice to take the on-field reins was greeted with disdain by Goats fans who remember how bad the New York Red Bulls, under his command, were in 2009.

What they forget is the run to the Eastern Conference final in 2007 with Chicago, which he rescued at midseason -- OK, Cuauhtemoc Blanco had plenty to do with that, too. And 2008 with the Red Bulls, who pulled off a series of stunners to reach the MLS Cup final.

Osorio could be a nice fit for Chivas USA, except, it appears, he has decided to turn down the offer. The Colombian coach, citing family and competitive reasons (doesn't want to uproot his family, wants to coach in Copa Libertadores), has told media outlets in his homeland that he's going to stick with Once Caldas, the club with which he just won the national title.

So ... what's next for the Goats?

The other finalists, sources inside and outside the club reported, are Real Salt Lake assistant coach Robin Fraser and former Chicago Fire head coach Denis Hamlett, who was a Fire assistant for a decade before taking charge.

The Jamaica-born Fraser, a former star central defender with the Galaxy (who made 27 appearances with the U.S. national team), is among the league's most respected assistants; he's a fiercely cultured and intelligent student of the game who is going to get a shot as a head coach somewhere.

The Costa Rica-born Hamlett, also a former central defender with L.A. ties (he played for the indoor Anaheim Splash in the mid-1990s), was a highly respected assistant who took charge of the Fire after Osorio departed for New York. He was dismissed after Chicago lost on penalties to Real Salt Lake in the 2009 Eastern Conference final. Hamlett was in charge this fall at NAIA school Illinois Tech.

Fraser is respected by his players, Hamlett (owing to a more difficult personality) less so.

Chivas also could widen their search, but given that the club will not give the head coach complete control of the soccer operations, the pool of real contenders is rather narrow, unless management pulls in a coach from within parent club Guadalajara's system. That might be disastrous: To succeed, Chivas needs a coach with knowledge of the league and its odd (by international standards) roster rules.