Changes begin to take shape at Chivas USA camp

On Soccer

The crack of the whip echoes metaphorically over the training field, and yet Chivas USA Coach Robin Fraser has not so much as raised his voice, let alone his hand.

There is a new man in charge, and for the Chivas USA players there is an uncertainty about whether to be welcoming or to be nervous.

They should be both.

Changes aplenty are under way at Los Angeles’ “other” Major League Soccer team, the one not called the Galaxy, and already, even in the first week of preseason training, there is an altered mood, a new optimism, about Chivas.

Not to mention new faces.

Costa Rican defender Dario Delgado is gone. Mexican midfielder Rodolfo Espinoza is gone. Cuban forward Maykel Galindo is gone.

“We’re moving on and moving forward,” is Fraser’s terse explanation.


He is not interested in the past. It is his first week in camp as a coach, and the future is all that interests him.

So he is happy to talk about the possible acquisition, on loan from Chivas de Guadalajara, of goalkeeper Sergio Arias, 22, a member of Mexico’s under-17 world championship-winning team in 2005.

He is happy to talk about the possible return from Mexico of former Chivas USA favorite Francisco “Panchito” Mendoza, and about the arrival, on trial, of former Mexico national team and UNAM defender Joaquin Beltran.

He is happy to talk about veteran American defender Jimmy Conrad joining Chivas, as well as Tristan Bowen and Zarek Valentin and Victor Estupinan and Alejandro Moreno and … well, a whole raft of other newcomers.

But there is something Fraser would like to make clear. This will be a fit and focused Chivas USA team in 2011. Nothing else is acceptable.

Fraser, 44, was hired to replace Martin Vasquez, who was dismissed after Chivas finished last in the Western Conference in 2010 with an 8-14-4 record.

“As I’ve said before, I have no idea what happened here in the past — it could have been great, it could have been bad, I have no idea — but I know what I think is necessary to be successful and it’s a culture that is cultivated every single day in training,” Fraser said.

“From that foundation you can then go on to build the things that you want. But the starting point is, without a doubt, the players learning how to train, learning how to push themselves, learning how to be extremely professional in every aspect of their approach to the game. Once you get that in place, then you’ve got pieces to work with.”

So three dozen or so would-be Chivas players are in San Luis Obispo this week learning how to train. Again, the message from Fraser is clear.

“You lay out the expectations and you lay out the demands,” he said, “and the guys who get it and buy in, we’re all going to move forward together. If there are guys who don’t want a part of it, then they’re going to have to go a different path.

“For us it really is about creating an environment that is about success.”

So, did Fraser pick up a welcoming warmth when the team took to the field on its first day of training, or was it nerves that he sensed?

“I think it’s all just so new when a new coach comes in, that it’s almost like guarded [and the players being] kind of not really sure how to take me, that kind of thing. But they’ll get to know me real fast. They’ll find out I’m a nice guy,” he said.

“They will get to learn my philosophy or my approach quickly enough, and once we get beyond that, it will be all about tactics and where we want to go as a team.”