Garber should turn Chivas USA negative into a positive

Photo: Earl Gardner

With HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” recently taking the Chivas USA debacle to a whole new level, the league is in full-fledged damage control mode over the plagued franchise. With Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game taking place tonight, some may say it’s horrible timing for even more extensive bad press.

But Commissioner Don Garber has the perfect opportunity to take his personal fire extinguisher to the conflagration ablaze in SoCal. What he needs to do tonight is end the Chivas USA circus, and the best way to do that is to get Jorge Vergara out of the picture.

You see, MLS All-Star Game ends up being a de facto “State of the League” platform for Garber. During halftime, he steps onto the ESPN set and answers a number of questions, some softballs, others less so. If you happen to listen to ESPN’s “Big Head Red Head” podcast, you have heard Alexi Lalas say he will ask Garber about Chivas USA and demand an answer.

In other words, there’s really no glossing this over. A wishy-washy answer will look even worse.

Convenient timing

The Real Sports expose can impact tonight’s spectacle vs. A.S. Roma in one of two ways.

The inconvenience is that it’s even an issue, a blight that the league has been slow to clear up. The slow crescendo has evolved to a Dizzy Gillespie-like trumpet, drowning out the league’s many positives.

The convenience is that Garber’s half time Q&A is a platform that should have many ears, many of which want to hear the league commissioner take firm control of this problem.

Most observers would agree that MLS strategy with Chivas USA has been less than impressive. Allowing Jorge Vergara to continue to operate the franchise was a mistake from the get-go. When things went from bad to worse this spring, the MLS approach was the equivalent of treating a bone-deep gash with Bactine and a Band-aid. Their strategy was essentially “No comment” and a a change of topics to the league expansion in New York City.

Now it’s time for more aggressive tactics. Garber could use yesterday’s announcement of Precourt Sports Ventures’ purchase of the Columbus Crew as another distraction. It’s definitely a sign of league growth to be down to only dual ownership entity (AEG with the Galaxy and Dynamo). But Chivas continues to be the bad egg.

Clear message

True, a lawsuit by two former Chivas coaches constrains what Garber can say. League action against Chivas could even be construed by a good litigator as admission of guilt.

But something must be done. The Goats are a mess, and everyone sees it.

It’s time Garber stepped up to the plate and assure fans that the ongoing crisis at Chivas USA is coming to some form of resolution. There is no better time to do so then at the MLS All-Star Game, when all eyes are watching.

If you consider the Precourt purchase of Columbus, one thing pops to mind: Why not buy Chivas USA? Anthony Precourt is based in San Francisco. Owning a West Coast team makes more sense than owning a team in central Ohio.

The reason could be simple: The Goats are a mess. Who wants to be in charge of sorting out C.D. Shambolica?

Garber needs to provide his franchises the best opportunity to succeed. It may be as simple as MLS relieving Vergara of his operating status, sorting out the fundamental issues (the lawsuit primarily, but also some on-field issues), and getting the franchise ready to be sold so that Vergara can recoup some (or all) of his investment. If the next ownership group pledges to rebrand the team and make it work in Los Angeles by keeping most of the old supporters and finding many new ones, it very much has a chance to succeed.

But first things first: It’s time to put a public end to Jorge Vergara’s time in MLS.


  1. John Ling says:

    I don’t know that staying in L.A. is the best answer for Chivas. It sure seems like if they stay there, they’ll remain the red-headed step child to the Galaxy.
    There are markets that come to mind – St. Louis, for example – that could easily support an MLS team. Perhaps it’s best for the league to move Chivas soemwhere it can thrive, and rebrand it to fit in that market.

  2. LA Aztecs have just announced new stadium in downtown LA. The new owners led by George Lopez and Magic Johnson are very excited for this new venture.

  3. Sean Doyle says:

    C.D. Shambolica!!! Love it, Earl!

  4. The Chopper says:

    Since the “LA’s Mexican Team” concept has failed so miserably, why leave the team there? Garber could force a sale. Orlando has made all the right moves and currently Florida has no MLS franchise. Tampa had strong attendance in the early days of MLS (but could not find a local owner). Rumor has it with Man City now in the fold that the Glazer family (owners of Man U and NFL Buccaneers) has renewed interest in MLS.

    Of course a sale means no expansion fees from the new markets go into the MLS coffers, so that is why Garber will seen an LA solution.

    • John Ling says:

      If they sold them, they could effectively still extract a large payment from the new owner. Whether the money that comes into the league is an “expansion” fee or a price tag, it’s still money coming in.
      I’d go someplace that doesn’t have a minor league team to move up. So no Orlando or San Antonio. Put Chivas in St. Louis and move SKC to the Western Confernce once NYCFC comes on-board. You’ll have an instant rivalry with StL and SKC playing each other 3 times a year. You’ll also then have 2 10-team conferences.

  5. Does anybody have a link to a transcript or video of Garber’s comments on Chivas during the ASG halftime show last night? I switched channels for a second and only caught the very end.

  6. PhillyandBCEagles says:

    Do the handful of us who predicted this when Chivas first came in the league now get to say “I told you so”?? Sad that most of the league’s fanbase at that time was so cowed by political correctness that they saw no issue with letting an MFL team with a club identity of ethnic exclusionism not only set up a farm team in the US but give it a gimmicky name that made it very clear that non-Mexicans and fans of other MFL clubs were not welcome. What they should have done back then was resurrect the LA Aztecs. You’d still get your ethnic pandering–and it would appeal to all Mexican-Americans, not just CdG fans–plus the club would appeal to fans of the old NASL team and people who are turned off by the Hollywood pretensions of the Galaxy.

    At this point I think it’s too late for that, even with a rebranding I don’t see them ever being anything more than MLS’ answer to the pre-Paul/Griffin Clippers. And if expansion is going to stop at 24 and Garber wants to put two clubs in Florida (a HUGE mistake, IMO–let Orlando, Miami, and Tampa compete for one franchise) things are going to get very tight. You still need a club in St. Louis and one in the south (Florida/Texas/DC don’t count, and a North Carolina club would barely count–MLS needs to be in either Nashville or Atlanta) and cities like San Antonio, Austin, San Diego, and Minneapolis are still out there. At this point I think you need to relocate the Goats.

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