Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Los Angeles Soccer [Print without images]

Wednesday, February 16, 2011
'Panchito' Mendoza is official, kind of

By Scott French

Chivas USA players on stage unveiling their new jersey.
Chivas USA unveiled its new jerseys for the 2011 MLS season in an event at The Standard on Wednesday.


If you needed concrete proof that Francisco “Panchito” Mendoza is back to stay, it was there on stage Wednesday night at the Standard in downtown L.A.

Chivas USA was unveiling their new jerseys, with the Corona logo on the front, and the club flew in five players from the team's camp in Arizona for the occasion. Among the quintet: Mendoza.

Need more proof: Managing partner and club president and Antonio Cué says the deal is done, that Mendoza has signed, that all the loose ends have been tied.

Not quite: Another Chivas official said the contract has been submitted to the league, which has not yet signed off on it -- and has asked more than once for additional paperwork. That official's understanding is that Mendoza is coming on loan from Guadalajara, which he joined in 2009 after four seasons with Chivas USA. He has played little for the Mexican powerhouse and in loans to Jaguares and second-tier Club Tijuana and last fall for second-tier Indios de Ciudad Juarez.

Also signed, but not yet announced: Mexican goalkeeper Sergio Arias, who is definitely arriving on loan from Guadalajara. (Coach Robin Fraser said when camp opened that the deal was done.) Arias, too, was on display at the Standard, and Cué told him, while introducing him to those on hand: “You're the future of this team. We believe in you.”

(Wonder what Zach Thornton and Dan Kennedy, Chivas' other netminders, will think of that.)

Also working as models: defender Jimmy Conrad and forwards Justin Braun and Alejandro Moreno. All head back to Arizona on Thursday morning, and the team returns home after scrimmaging the Vancouver Whitecaps on Friday.

PROGRESS REPORT: Conrad on how the club had progressed in Arizona:

“I would say that we've really started to make concrete the way we're going to move as a team, our team shape. I think having a couple games against quality opponents [in losses to Seattle and Real Salt Lake] has really helped us out because we got to see that what we've been working on really does work.

“And once that belief starts to kick in, that this is the right way to play -- and this is the way we're going to play -- then that becomes a spark. Once you get that spark, I mean … you know, it's limitless. You're bound by nothing by that point.”

THOUGHTS ON PEARCE: Conrad had this to say about Heath Pearce, his former teammate on the U.S. national team, whom Chivas acquired Tuesday in a trade with FC Dallas:

“I think any time you can add a quality player to your team, you don't think twice about it. From what I've heard, that Dallas was having some salary-cap issues, and when that starts to happen, then good players become expendable. …

“What's good about Heath is he can play multiple positions. I think he proved that in Dallas last year -- right back, left back, right mid, left mid. You probably could slot him into center back as well. He's young [at 26], has experience, has good confidence about him. I think he's going to make for hard choices for [Fraser], and that's ultimately what you want.”

WORTH NOTING: Braun, who injured his left ankle in his first day back from a cut suffered in last month's U.S. national team camp, says he's “close, probably a couple days or so” from returning to training. He's been in Arizona and is doing some work with the group, and he says he wants to be fully fit before going full-bore into practice. … Cué said interim general manager Jose Domene has “been a very good addition to the team,” is highly regarded for “his understanding of the league, how the league works” and has “all the skills to be a general manager.” So, will the “interim” be removed from his title? “It will be decided soon. … Conrad described Casa Grande, the site of Chivas' camp in Arizona, as, well, desolate. “We're in the middle of nowhere,” Conrad said. “It's good -- we're not there very long. We get in, play three games and get out.”