My Team & I: Chivas USA

By Alicia Ratterree

Twitter: @soccermusings

Why Chivas USA?

How can Americans create a football tradition? They have to start somewhere. I moved to Southern California in 2005 and shortly thereafter decided I needed to choose at least one team to follow. I watch as much football as I can, but I did not want to arbitrarily decide to follow a team, especially if it was across the world. If I picked a popular team, I would be teased for going with a frontrunner, but if I picked a less-fancied club, I might not get to see them play. In the past six years, the technology that allows fans to watch teams all over the world has increased dramatically, but I still do not want to randomly pick a team from abroad. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Europe, so I couldn’t pick a team based on that. I lived in Tianjin, China for a summer and while I do like their local team, Tianjin TEDA, I cannot find much news about them here in the U.S., let alone see any of their games or get any merchandise to show off my affiliation. Plus, the Chinese league is rather provincial and mired in scandal on a regular basis, so who could I share my fanhood with?

Looking closer to home, I did decide to pick between Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy, because I lived nearby and wanted a tangible connection, where their games would be on TV and I could see them in person. The Galaxy was an original MLS club, had won MLS Cup in 2005, and had established a foothold in Southern California. Their best player was Landon Donovan, who has blossomed into a fantastic professional, but was, in my mind, annoying and immature at the time. The Galaxy later got a whole heap of bandwagon fans after David Beckham was signed, although he has played a fraction of the team’s matches since he came to California. Chivas USA were the new kids on the block, established in 2004, so they were new to the area, just like me. Plus, I didn’t want to hop on the bandwagon of the Galaxy. Instead, I wanted to ‘earn’ accomplishments along with my team.

Favorite player?

With such a short history, there’s no real legends to choose from at this stage. But my favorite all-time Chivas USA player is Brad Guzan. I have no particular affinity for goalkeepers in general, but Guzan was terrific. He is another of the vaunted American goalkeepers, the only position where the United States produces high quality on a consistent basis. He was young when he played for Chivas and won MLS goalkeeper of the year in 2007 at the age of 23. He was not the loose cannon kind of ‘keeper who made bizarre decisions or appeared to do what he wanted, teammates, coaches, or fans be damned. He combined instinct and intelligence like few in the MLS. Like any top American, Guzan wanted to go to Europe and see if he was good enough to succeed in the top leagues of the world. He got a transfer to Aston Villa, but unfortunately for him another American goalkeeper, former international Brad Friedel, also transferred to Villa in 2008 and Guzan was buried on the depth chart. On the bright side, he has kept his place in the U.S. National Team, albeit as the backup to Tim Howard, but considering he barely plays in England, it indicates he is still a top ‘keeper.

Favorite strip?

Forgive me for not going far back in time with this, but I really like this year’s home kit. It is inspired by the ‘sister’ club (Chivas of Guadalajara, in Mexico) with the distinctive red and white vertical stripes, although Chivas USA have it in a really cool uneven panel in the middle of the jersey, and keep it red around the edges. Furthermore, the sponsor, Corona beer, is the best the club has had, as Corona comes from Mexico (fitting with the Mexican links of the club) and the lettering of the logo looks great against the red and white of the background. Besides the home kit, the current away uniform, with a dark blue jersey and barely-there white stripes, also looks good.

Worst thing about being a Chivas fan?

The total lack of respect for Chivas in MLS, not to mention anywhere else. Galaxy fans hate Chivas for trying to steal their thunder in Southern California, and taunt us for renting the arena both teams share (the Galaxy owns it outright). The rest of MLS often forget Chivas even exist, and when they do, they complain they are a terrible team, even though it is often forgotten Chivas made the playoffs four years in a row and really only played terribly last season. A lot of people think the club is nothing more than a marketing scheme, with the name taken from the owner’s Mexican team and meant to cater to the Latino fans in the region. I grant there is a bit of cynicism in the name choice, but I think the team represents a version of the U.S. ignored most of the time in professional sports. There is a huge Latino population in California, and some of them are football fans. Some of these folks were born and raised in the U.S., while others come from Latin America and immigrate. Chivas USA are not ‘the Mexican team’ as some detractors claim, but the club fosters a bilingual and bicultural atmosphere that really reflects the demographic reality of the area. There are people of all different races and backgrounds at matches. If I want to bring friends or family who speak Spanish to a game, I know they will feel as comfortable as me.

Lastly, along with the bicultural nature of the club, a lot of people are really racist about the club. Because they are a club with a Spanish name (Chivas means goats in Spanish, which leads to some obvious name-calling in itself), and because they are (unfairly) seen as ‘the Mexican team’ in the league, I hear a lot of anti-Latino racism about the club and the fans. I know racism is a feature of our world, and I know it is all too common in the sport, but I think there is a big difference between teasing fans for their team’s play on the field and calling them ‘illegals’ or ‘greasers’ or ‘wetbacks.’ Obviously, on some level it is reflective of racism against Latinos in society more generally, but there’s no reason for it in the sport. It is tough to stomach, but fortunately there is a community of fans of the team who do their best to ignore the racism.

Favorite game?

The next victory! Seriously, though, I think I am truly waiting for the next big game. Of course, there have been great games, but I would rather wait for a game that is truly unforgettable, and who knows, maybe it is right around the corner?

Funniest moment?

Taking my fiancé’s nieces to a game this season, against the Colorado Rapids, who were last season’s champions. It was the girls’ first game in person, and we got good seats near the field. They marveled at how close they were to the action, and really got into the game. Near the end of the match, a Colorado player got upset at the referee and launched into a expletive-laden tirade at the top of his lungs. The youngest girl looked up at me with big eyes and said quietly and very sternly, “He is a bad man!”

Favorite moment?

Also taking the girl’s to the game. I am hoping I can get them into the sport, and into Chivas, so I can help build the fanbase and take them to games on a regular basis, and so we can spend time together. Just trying to do my part to expand the community and help build a Chivas USA tradition.

Leave a Reply