Los Angeles Soccer: Lorenzo Cue
Chivas USA opened camp Thursday with physicals and initial meetings, and the Goats begin on-field preparations Friday morning at the Home Depot Center with a new coach and, in many ways, a new club.
Robin Fraser takes charge as the club takes stock, and he brings with him a coaching philosophy that could provide a foundation for Chivas to return to, and surpass, the glories of 2006-09.
The club was perhaps Major League Soccer's most stylish at the time, and a title run in 2007 -- with Maykel Galindo's breakthrough and Ante Razov's cerebral play up top -- would have been appropriate. Chivas has never won a playoff series.
Fraser is looking to quickly turn last year's losers into contenders. Chivas went 8-18-4 and finished last in the Western Conference after losing its veteran core of players to departures and retirement.
Here's what you need to know heading into preseason camp:
The new face of the organization is Fraser's. The first-time head coach -- a former Galaxy star lauded for his work as an assistant coach at Real Salt Lake -- and his staff (including former Galaxy and UCLA star Greg Vanney) say they have a plan in mind, a sort of total-football approach to team harmony, that will supplant the foundation that crashed last year.
The arrival of two veterans -- central defender Jimmy Conrad (Temple City/Temple City HS and UCLA), acquired in the re-entry draft, and forward Alejandro Moreno, a former Galaxy striker picked up in a trade -- will play well into Fraser's team building, bringing veteran savvy and, especially Conrad, leadership qualities that the club lacked last year.
The Goats were masterful at the draft, pulling in five genuine prospects. Defender Zarek Valentin, the No. 4 overall pick (a central defender at Akron who will move to the right for Chivas), is considered can't-miss, and fellow first-rounder Victor Estupiñan, from Ecuador, is a most enticing forward. Their ability to contribute immediately will be crucial, but both are long-range selections.
Tristan Bowen (Van Nuys), who will be 20 on Jan. 30, arrives after a promising second season with the Galaxy. Three more draftees -- midfielders Jon Okafor (Brown) and Ernesto Carranza (Sacramento State) and defender Curtis Ushedo (Alabama-Birmingham) -- will battle for roster spots. So will former Chivas USA winger Francisco “Panchito” Mendoza, who will join training as a non-roster guest.
A Chivas USA official confirmed Wednesday that Juarez departed in the wake of Vasquez's firing and that the team is conducting postseason training sessions under the leadership of the remaining coaching staff.
Vasquez was dismissed, managing partner Antonio Cue told ESPN Los Angeles, after he was asked to replace one of his assistant coaches, who would have been reassigned within the organization. Vasquez and Cue said no determination had been made on which coach would be reassigned, and the club official's understanding is that Juarez's name had not been mentioned in the meeting among Vasquez, Cue and Cue's brother, Lorenzo, an executive with Chivas USA LLC, the company that runs the club.
Vasquez brought Juarez, a longtime U.S. Soccer staff coach who served as the first head coach for the San Diego Spirit in the defunct Women's United Soccer Association, onto his staff last January. Juarez, a former head coach at Cal State San Bernardino and Cal Poly Pomona who is technical director of the Claremont Stars youth soccer club, was the instructor when Vasquez received his U.S. Soccer A license. Vasquez was an assistant coach under Juarez at Cal Poly Pomona and with the Spirit.
Stephen Hamilton, Chivas USA's director of soccer operations, has begun talking to potential head coaching candidates. There are a dozen names on the list, the club official said, and a source with knowledge of the situation said discussions have been conducted with former U.S. national team forward Eric Wynalda and former Chivas USA midfielder Jesse Marsch, who was on U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley's staff at the World Cup in South Africa. Multiple coaches on the list are based in Mexico, sources said.
As director of soccer Stephen Hamilton said following the Goats' final game, an Oct. 23 loss to Chicago at Home Depot Center: Vasquez was their guy, and the club had every intention of heading into the second year of a three-year plan with him at the helm.
Vasquez and Chivas USA managing partner Antonio Cue provided ESPN Los Angeles identical descriptions of a 3½-hour meeting two days following the Goats' season finale, one that both sides called positive and productive -- until Vasquez was told he would need to jettison one member of his staff.
The meeting -- involving Vasquez, Cue and Cue's brother, Lorenzo, an executive with Chivas USA LLC, the company that manages the club -- was a “great meeting,” Vasquez said, with discussion covering what went right and wrong in an 8-18-4, last-in-the-Western Conference campaign and the best way to improve the club.
Lorenzo Cue mentioned bringing in another assistant coach, and Vasquez, who was given his first head-coaching job by the club last December, said he “thought it was a good suggestion, a positive suggestion.”
By the end of the meeting, Vasquez said, “we had a plan of action going forward, and we felt very positive about going forward and turning this around.” Then, as the meeting was coming to an end, Vasquez was told “somebody from my staff had to go. I was not in agreement with that. I said if somebody was coming in to be part of the group, great. But losing somebody, I'm against it. Because I have a lot of confidence in my assistants, and they have all the knowledge to help us, to help Chivas USA, turn this around.”