Just three days after beating Chivas de Guadalajara, 3-1, in a friendly, Sounders FC returns to Qwest Field tonight to meet Chivas USA in a match that could affect Seattle’s playoff seeding.
And while this is a different opponent, Chivas of Major League Soccer and Chivas of the Mexican first-division have a relationship that is unique within the leagues.
“The idea was to have basically a version of the team here in Los Angeles – something that both appeals to Guadalajara’s fan base in the United States and can create its own identity in the United States,” said David Lindholm, communications manager of Chivas USA. “The relationship is in a number of different areas, including coaches and players that have gone back and forth between the two teams, in scouting and in business practices. It’s an all-encompassing relationship that has a hand in all aspects of how the club is run.”
MLS makes no exceptions for Chivas USA in the league limit of eight international players per team. However, the Goats choose to devote most of those slots to build a Mexican connection – and especially the connection with Guadalajara.
“We definitely want to bring in Mexican players, bring in Hispanic players, Spanish-speaking players that can appeal to our fan base,” Lindholm said. “And we’ve had several players that have gone both ways. In 2005, there were a bunch of players that came in from Guadalajara, and obviously that was a rocky (4-22-6) season for us. But even since then, there have been several.”
Current Chivas USA players who have worn both uniforms include:
Jesus Padilla, who spent eight years in the Guadalajara system; Carlos Borja, who started in the Chivas USA youth system, went to Guadalajara for a couple of seasons and then returned to the States this season. Francisco Mendoza started on the MLS side, and after four years moved on to Guadalajara.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said the link between Chivas USA and Guadalajara has ebbed and flowed, but could be strengthening again.
“Once Bob Bradley took over (as coach in 2006), I think that connection got basically separated a little bit more,” Schmid said. “But now with Martin Vasquez in there as the coach it gets sort of reconnected a little bit; there’s more Hispanic players on the team than there were.”
Beyond the Guadalajara connection, three other Chivas USA players played for other Mexican clubs last season; Giancarlo Maldonado and Mariano Trujillo of Atlante, and Paulo Nagamora of Tigres.
“Ball possession is a big part of their game,” Schmid said. “It’s a big part of Chivas Guadalajara’s game as well. Certainly, ball possession is more of a Latin element sometimes. … They are similar a little bit, but I think it’s more from the philosophy of the coach to keep possession of the ball, and they are a good ball-possession team.”
They also are a struggling team with a record of 8-15-4. And they already are out of playoff contention and on pace for the fewest wins since their expansion troubles of 2005.
Meanwhile, the Sounders clinched a playoff spot with their win last week in Kansas City. However, they can still finish from fifth to eighth in seeding.
“There’s an advantage to seventh,” Schmid pointed out. “The advantage is if you’re seventh and you win your series and No. 8 wins their series, you could be at home in the conference final – whichever conference that might be. ... But I try not to look at it because I learned a long time ago that I don’t wish for this team or that team.”
The Sounders announced Thursday that they will open the playoffs at 5 p.m. Oct. 31 at Qwest Field, regardless of seeding or opponent.
Playoff tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer
CHIVAS USA (8-15-4; 28 PTS.) AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (13-9-6; 45 PTS.)
kickoff: 8 p.m., Qwest Field.
RADIO: 97.3-FM (1210-AM in Spanish).
HEAD TO HEAD: Chivas leads MLS series, 2-0-2. Seattle has never scored on the Goats in four league meetings. However, the Sounders defeated Chivas, 3-1, in this season’s U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
TEAM LEADERS: For Chivas – G 9, Justin Braun; A 3, five players; S 57, Braun; SOG 25 Braun; GAA 1.32, Zack Thornton. For Seattle – G 10, Fredy Montero; A 9, Montero; S 87, Montero; SOG 34, Montero; GAA 1.13, Kasey Keller.
NOTES: Seattle has won four straight league games, while Chivas has lost three out of four. However, the win came last weekend: 3-0, over Toronto. … The Sounders have clinched a place in the postseason, while Chivas has been eliminated from playoff contention for the first time in five seasons. … Seattle is 4-0-2 over its last six home MLS games, while the Goats are 0-4-1 over their last five away. … Chivas forward Alan Gordon is out after receiving a two-game suspension from the league for endangering the safety of Toronto defender Adrian Cann in an Oct. 9 game. Leading-scorer Justin Braun is listed as questionable after suffering a concussion. … Seattle’s Sanna Nyassi has scored five goals in his last four overall games. Blaise Nkufo has scored five goals in his last four league matches, including two game-winners. … Seattle is 5-0 in October MLS games. … Montero, Osvaldo Alonso and Tyrone Marshall are one caution away from one-game suspensions. … The referee is Edvin Jurisevic. … Tonight is Fan Appreciation Night. Details are outlined on the Sounders Insider blog at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer.
NEXT: 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Sounders conclude CONCACAF Champions League play when Saprissa of Costa Rica visits Qwest Field. They end the MLS regular season Oct. 23 at Houston. Then, the Sounders will open the playoffs at 5 p.m. on Oct. 31 at Qwest, regardless of seeding or opponent. Playoff tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Don Ruiz, staff writer