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Chivas USA's latest roster moves should provide a big boost

On Thursday, Chivas acquired 19-year-old striker Juan Agudelo and central defender Danny Califf. The moves give the team, which plays the Galaxy on Saturday, a personality and an energy it has lacked.

May 19, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • Former Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo celebrates after scoring against Houston earlier this month in an MLS game.
Former Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo celebrates after scoring against… (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images )

Two weeks before the Major League Soccer season opened, Jose Domene, 31, Chivas USA's youthful general manager, sat in a rickety school bus on its way to yet another in a series of events to promote a team that had lost its way both on the field and in the community.

This year, he pledged, it would no longer be business as usual for his faceless franchise, one that hasn't had a winning season or a playoff appearance since 2009.

Thursday he backed those words with action, swinging a pair of major deals that landed his team a dynamic young striker in 19-year-old Juan Agudelo and a rugged central defender in Danny Califf. But more important, the moves imbued the team with a personality and an energy it has long lacked.

The immediate impact of the trades with the New York Red Bulls — who got All-Star defender Heath Pearce and a ton of cash from Chivas for Agudelo — and the Philadelphia Union — which received midfielder Michael Lahoud and allocation money for Califf —probably will remake Chivas' methodical, impotent offense into one that could be exciting and unpredictable. But longer term, it could make Chivas a playoff contender in the MLS' competitive Western Conference.

Agudelo and Califf will put on their new uniforms for the first time Saturday when Chivas meets the Galaxy, its Home Depot Center roommate, in the SuperClasico.

"Short-term we need to win. And we need to make the playoffs," said Domene, whose team had a league-low six goals in 10 games entering Saturday. "And not just make the playoffs but make a run [in] the playoffs. As long as you're there, anything can happen."

Domene had to dig deep to try to make that happen. To get Agudelo, who had more caps with the U.S. national team (15) than career starts (13) with his MLS team, Domene sent what's been termed a "significant amount" of allocation money to New York, which the Red Bulls will probably use to acquire a third designated player this summer. Chivas will also pay the remainder of Pearce's salary this season, according to news reports out of New York, and has agreed to give the Red Bulls a chunk of the transfer fee from any future sale involving Agudelo.

All that is significant because Chivas has developed a reputation for tight spending.

"You have to give up an asset to get an asset," Chivas Coach Robin Fraser said. "So in order to get a player like Juan you have to give up a very good player like Heath."

But the acquisition of Califf figures to ease the loss of Pearce. A former national team defender and the Union's captain, the 32-year-old Califf figures to slot into Pearce's spot in the central defense.

Combined, the two deals add up to a blockbuster for Domene, a Stanford business school grad with just 18 months experience as a soccer general manager. But they aren't his first significant moves this season. In April, after three months of negotiations, Chivas acquired 19-year-old Colombian forward Jose Erick Correa less than a week after Domene traded with the Galaxy for midfielder Paolo Cardozo.

Interestingly, Chivas was adding big names while the Galaxy was preparing to lose some. After Saturday's match Galaxy captain Landon Donovan and striker Robbie Keane are expected to leave for several weeks of duty with their respective national teams, Donovan with the U.S. and Keane with Ireland, in the European Championship.

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