Chivas USA opened the MLS season by beating the Chicago Fire 3-2 last weekend. That's the good news. The bad news? The league took over ownership of the club during the offseason.
In 2013, Chivas finished at the bottom of the Western Conference, and the club was sued by two former employees. Coaches Ted Chronopoulos and Dan Calichman claimed they were fired because they are not Mexican or Latino.
Newly appointed Chivas USA President Nelson Rodriguez joined Bill Littlefield on Only A Game to discuss the good and the bad.
BL: Late last month, there was an announcement that the racial and ethnic discrimination suit filed in May of 2013 by former Chivas employees Ted Chronopoulos and Dan Calichman had been "resolved." That's the word commissioner [Don] Garber used. What does "resolved" mean regarding the team's employment policies going forward?
NR: I can't speak to any previous legal matter or the nature of how those may have been resolved. I can speak to what we're putting into place here. So, we will commence and provide staff with diversity sensitivity and harassment training. We are an equal opportunity employer, and my personal view is we are interested in acquiring the best and the brightest — provided those people are of strong character and uphold our club values. I'm not interested in looking beyond their talents and their characters as individuals.
BL: On the team website you are identified as the man overseeing all business and sporting operations while MLS continues to search for a new ownership group. Have you any sense of how that search is going?
NR: No, I don't. The search for new ownership will be handled by the headquarters of Major League Soccer in New York. I imagine that at some point in the process I will be asked to be involved to speak with perhaps some of the finalists who are interested in securing ownership of the club.
BL: When a league has to take over a team, it's usually a desperate measure. On the other hand, sometimes getting rid of an owner constitutes addition by subtraction. How's morale among the players and other team personnel as the season gets underway?
NR: It is one of the more pleasant surprises that I have found. The club hasn't made the playoffs for four years. There is undeniable tumult that has diseased the club in recent years, yet I have found a front office staff and a group of players that are incredibly resilient, that have deep passion for the club and an earnest desire to achieve excellence. The team itself and the coaching staff already demonstrated in our opening game victory that they will be resilient, and that gives us great hope.
BL: I think it's fair to say that Chivas USA has been the second-most popular MLS team to be playing at the StubHub Center in LA. How does everybody at Chivas deal with playing in the shadow of the Galaxy?
[sidebar title="The Suit Against Chivas USA" align="right"]In June 2013, Bill Littlefield looked at the discrimination suit filed by two former employees of Chivas USA.[/sidebar]NR: Well, there's a benefit to being the Galaxy's immediate neighbor, which is it allows us to put a little chip on our shoulder and to swing away as the decided underdog. We see the devotion to the club, albeit by a small group of fanatics, but we believe there's a viable alternative in this marketplace to the team that wears white. And we aim to capture that market.
BL: How important is the team's performance going forward likely to be to the attempt to find new ownership?
NR: I think new ownership will look at the opportunity overall. Having said that, we will place a priority on team performance. If we can get the team headed in the right direction, and I'm confident with coach Wilmer Cabrera and his staff that we can, that should make the resale that much easier.
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