Chivas USA played Chivas de Guadalajara in a friendly soccer match here Tuesday night — more on that in a moment — and, as always, there were two sides to the story.
Pulling into the parking lot, the aroma of carne asada and chorizo drifted in the evening air. “So, does a hot dog come with that?” you ask the parking attendant taking your $15.
“A hot dog? This is Mexican tonight,” she replies, laughing. The thousands of red-and-white striped Chivas jerseys should have told you that.
That’s one side to the story.
So you walk into Petco Park and the usher bids you welcome. “So, when is Chivas USA moving here?” you ask.
“No way,” he replies. “The players are already unhappy.”
He means the Padres, and here’s why: “They’re superstitious, especially the pitchers, and they don’t like the mound being removed in the middle of a pennant race. At least that’s what I heard.”
Perhaps he heard relief pitcher Heath Bell call the whole thing “asinine.”
That’s the other side of the story.
Add the two sides together and this is what you get: Yes, San Diego has plenty of soccer fans—23,216 showed up for Tuesday’s Chivas USA’s 4-2 penalty kick victory after a 0-0 tie—and, yes, Major League Soccer definitely has the city on its expansion radar.
But, no, Chivas USA will not be leaving Los Angeles. You can take Shawn Hunter’s word for that.
“We’re not coming down here. L.A.'s our home,” the president and chief executive of Chivas USA said. “We’ve said all along that when the right opportunity presents itself, we’d like to build our own stadium. We had a lot of great conversations going two years ago and then the economy crashed. We’ve kind of started those again, but all the conversations we’re having are in L.A.”
So why was Chivas USA playing in San Diego on Tuesday night?
“It’s a great fan-development opportunity,” Hunter said. “There are a lot of Chivas fans down here. There are a lot of soccer fans. It was one of the top TV markets during the World Cup. For us it’s an opportunity to do something we want to try to do on an annual basis.
“I have strong friendships with the ownership of the Padres, and we’ve been kicking this around for a year and a half.”
As for the game itself, played to a background racket of plastic horns (yes, vuvuzelas), it was bright and entertaining.
Chivas USA should have been two goals ahead within the first five minutes, but it squandered two close-range scoring chances. First, Rodolfo Espinoza blasted a shot wide of the right post, then Justin Braun steered a header wide of the left post.
At the other end, Adolfo Bautista forced Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton into a diving save to his right and Jonny Magallon sent his header off the resulting corner kick over the bar.
Near the end of the first half, Espinoza delivered a perfect cross in from the left, but Alan Gordon’s header flashed wide of the left post. Then Braun missed with another header.
Both teams subbed freely in the second 45 minutes, again chances came and were wasted, and eventually Guadalajara paid the penalty.