The word around the Home Depot Center lately is “new.”
So it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when the Chivas organization decided to unveil their new jerseys – made with a state-of-the-art material new to the MLS – on a Volaris flight from Los Angeles to Guadalajara and back, using the center aisle as a cat walk for the unsuspecting passengers. This is a team trying to reinvent itself.
“In a perfect scenario, you wouldn’t want to make so many changes,” said forward Juan Pablo Angel, who joined the Goats during last season. “You want to keep the core and then obviously add the bits and pieces when you need them. But the reality is that we needed to bring a lot of players to pretty much change the majority of the squad, but it’s up to us to try to speed up the adapting process.”
James Riley and Ryan Smith are just two of a handful of new faces, some of which have only arrived in the last few weeks.
“I think we have the right components. Obviously, those will shift and move as we try to formulate a competitive team, but I think the building blocks are there,” said Riley, who arrived at Chivas most recently from the Seattle Sounders.
The British-born Smith comes to LA by way of Sporting Kansas City. After undergoing knee surgery between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, he saw limited action with KC in 2011 and eventually returned to Europe due to family issues. He spent June and July with the Spanish club Real Zaragoza.
“Obviously, coming over from London, the weather is different. My family is still back home. I’m trying to integrate into my new team and get to know my teammates,” said Riley, who admits the transition hasn’t been the easiest. He is currently waiting for his mother, fiancée and daughter to arrive from London.
“Most guys have been here for a while and they have their families here, and I don’t, so it makes a difference I would say.”
Joining Smith far away from their native land are a trio of South American players. Ecuador’s Oswaldo Minda and Miller Bolanos, and Colombian-born Jonathan Valencia are already helping the Goats achieve their style makeover.
It would be best not to make your predictions for the year based on the preseason results, because wins and losses haven’t been their focus.
“The preseason games are to try to get to know each other and build character,” said Riley. “As long as we can learn from those games, we will be all right.”
Added Peter Vagenas: “It’s obviously early. It’s a new group and it’s a learning process. We’re by no means a finished group, but that’s OK right now.” The Southern California native also joins the Goats this season after spending time with the LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps.
“As we’re getting closer to opening day, we need to become a bit more results-oriented in the coming matches.”
So, come March 11, all of that changes.
“We’ve definitely made some improvements and have much higher expectations this year and we expect to be a playoff team,” said Dan Kennedy.
“From Day 1, [head coach] Robin [Frasier] and [assistant coach] Greg [Vanney] have been very specific in what they want, so in that sense whether you’re new you know what is expected of you,” said Vagenas. “That being said, we have some guys here that had some good seasons last year and there have been some roles that have been established. But at the same time we’ve got to mend that with some of the new faces and hopefully put out, at the end of the day, a better product.”
Right now, players are describing that product as “dangerous” and “athletic.” Those are good signs, but they won’t mean much if the Chivas’ season ends early again.
Perhaps Ben Zemanski said it best.
“If you’re not a team in this league looking to win a championship, then you are in it for the wrong reasons.”