Soccer: Nick Theslof
Yes, that was Simon Elliott in midfield for Chivas USA on Monday afternoon, the holding midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation Goats coach Robin Fraser presented in a Home Depot Center scrimmage against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The New Zealander, whose Major League Soccer career started 12 years ago with the Galaxy, began a trial this past weekend with Chivas USA. He's 36, but his performance in South Africa during last summer's World Cup testifies he's capable of being influential in the right role.
“Simon has played hundreds of games and the Olympics and World Cup and that sort of thing,” Fraser said after Chivas' 1-0 victory. “You look at Simon, I thought he was New Zealand's best player in the World Cup last year. … I just think he's got a tremendous understanding of the game, and I think he can bring a lot to a team.”
Elliott's countryman Andrew Boyens, a 6-foot-4 defender who played sparingly he past three seasons for the New York Red Bulls (and previously was with Toronto FC), also is in camp. He saw time as a center back and left back against San Jose.
Elliott, a teammate of Fraser's for two seasons in L.A. and two more with the Columbus Crew, says he also contacted the Galaxy about potential opportunities.
“I live here -- my better half is in L.A. -- so it just makes sense, if I can, to try and play here,” Elliott said after Chivas' 1-0 victory. “I approached both of the teams here, and this one seemed to be a decent option.”
Elliott fared well in front of the backline Monday, playing the first of three 35-minute periods in the 105-minute scrimmage. He was behind Paulo Nagamura and Blair Gavin in an inspired midfield triangle that was pivotal to Chivas' control of the early action.
Rodolfo Espinoza, Maykel Galindo and Dario Delgado are not returning to Chivas USA, coach Robin Fraser said Friday, but the club is acquiring one of Mexico's most promising young goalkeepers on loan from Club Deportivo Guadalajara.Sergio Arias, Luis Michel's backup for Guadalajara, is joining Chivas USA for the 2011 season. Fraser said “as far as I know,” the loan has been finalized, but Arias said he wants “this to be a deal very soon.”
Either way, Arias could challenge starter Zach Thornton, 37, and No. 2 Dan Kennedy, 28, for playing time, and upper management -- Guadalajara owner (and Chivas USA co-owner) Jorge Vergara -- might exert some pressure to get him on the field.
Arias, who will be 23 next month, hasn't made his first-team league debut for Guadalajara, but he has extensive youth national team experience -- he starred on the Mexican side that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2005 -- and made 36 appearances on loan to second-tier Dorados de Sinaloa in 2007-08.
“We're getting an opportunity to get a player whose ceiling is very high and a lot of potential and he's been good places as a youth player,” Fraser said. “We're excited about seeing how he develops.”
Said Arias: “I'm very happy, very motivated to be here. … I've been waiting for an opportunity like this one for awhile.”
SO LONG: The option on Espinoza, a Mexican winger who made a big impact when he joined the club last winter, has been declined, and Chivas also has jettisoned Cuban forward Galindo and Costa Rican defender Delgado.
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.”
Wednesday's dismissal by Chivas USA of Martin Vasquez isn't all that surprising except for vice president of soccer operations Stephen Hamilton's insistence Saturday that the club's head coach definitely would return in 2011, that "the things we saw in him previously, we still see in him, and I think he’s going to benefit from a year of experience as a head coach."
Perhaps so, just not with the Goats. Looking for potential candidates? There are, at least on the surface, hundreds of them. No, thousands. Which are viable and which are not depends on how much Chivas wants to spend -- both on a coach and on players -- and how wide a net Hamilton and the club's "soccer committee" choose to cast.
THE BIG NAMES: The biggest, at least in local circles, is German legend Juergen Klinsmann, one of the premier strikers of his (or any) generation -- and an innovative coach who took an unfancied Germany side to the 2006 World Cup semifinals, ran into problems at tradition-minded Bayern Munich (where Vasquez was among his assistants) and twice broke off talks with U.S. Soccer about taking the reigns of our national team, both times over control issues.
Klinsmann lives in Huntington Beach, is between coaching jobs, and is familiar with MLS through his years in the U.S. and history with the Galaxy, for which he served as consultant during Sigi Schmid's reign. He might find the opportunity to build with Chivas most attractive: the club's anti-corporate style stands in stark contrast to their neighbors down the hall, and it wouldn't surprise us if he and President/CEO Shawn Hunter got along famously.