There have been plenty of false dawns in the no-longer short history of Chivas USA. They actually made the playoffs for four straight years (2006-09) and fell just two points shy of the Supporters' Shield in 2007. It's somewhat notable that during their run of success they never made it out of the first round of the playoffs in any of those seasons, but it was a solid run in which they averaged 46 points per season.
Chivas USA seemed to be on the right track last season when they hired Robin Fraser, signed up with Corona as their shirt sponsor and seemed to be building a solid foundation that emphasized defense. Of course, we know how that played out as Chivas finished with a worse point total than all but three teams.
There's something about this past week that just strikes me as a little different, though. In picking up Juan Agudelo from the New York Red Bulls and Danny Califf from the Philadelphia Union, Chivas showed some real ambition for the first time in, well, quite awhile. You could toss the recent acquisition of Colombian teenager Erick Correa into the same category. They of course followed that up with their first win over the LA Galaxy in the SuperClasico since 2007.
Combined, it really does feel like Chivas USA fortunes may be changing, even if only so slightly.
Acquiring young forwards
There are all kinds of soccer-first reasons to doubt the intelligence of trading away a proven defender like Heath Pearce to pick up a teenager who had only started in about a third of his appearances. But there are lots of reasons to like what this says about Chivas' goals.
Namely, that they want players that have some real upside. The decision to trade Justin Braun to the Montreal Impact for James Riley was probably not very popular at the time -- and left a lot of us observers kinda scratching our heads -- but it's now looking to be a good move. One of those reasons is because they now have at least two strikers with arguably better potential.
In Agudelo and Correa, Chivas USA have a pair of flashy forwards that could develop into quite a partnership in the next few years. Even better, they are just 19 years old and are already seasoned pros. No, they may not reach their full potential, and are especially unlikely to do so with Chivas, but they don't have to. If they can just get regular playing time, there's every reason to believe that they can each be 10-goal scorers this season.
Even beyond the field, both present a quality chance to finally give Chivas some marketable players to sell. While Chivas has always managed to find talented players, none of them have ever been "face of the franchise" types. Sacha Kljestan can't even get the attention of United States national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, let alone the Los Angeles public. Brad Guzan is a fine player, but no one comes to games to see a goalkeeper (unless they're named Kasey Keller).
That Agudelo has once again been called into Klinsmann's camp is just the latest example of how much people think of his potential. Correa and Agudelo are young, fast, exciting, Spanish-speaking players who could help Chivas reach soccer fans of all nationalities.
Bolstering the defense
The trade for Califf could end up being the move that makes the others matter. Califf is definitely not the player he once was. He's lost a step and perhaps rightfully lost his starting job with the Union. But he's the kind of clubhouse leader that Chivas seems to have been lacking.
As good as the Chivas defense has looked at times, they had shown some recent signs of duress. Califf has the potential to make a nice pairing with Rauwshan McKenzie and along with fullbacks Riley and Ante Jazic, that should be a defense that can at least relieve some of the pressure on Dan Kennedy.
Like Agudelo and Correa, Califf also has the potential to be a real hit among the Chivas fanbase. Califf was one of the more popular Union players during his days in Philadelphia, and you'd think the Southern California native would be even more ingratiated with Chivas' fans.
Turning the corner
The win over the Galaxy in the SuperClasico is no small part of this, even if it's just one game. After years of being pushed around by the team that is essentially their landlords, Chivas stood toe-to-toe with the Galaxy on Saturday. The moment that seemed to be the most telling was when Landon Donovan was called for a handball in the Chivas box. Kennedy came running out immediately to scold Donovan. It could be seen as a bit over the top, but I thought it showed just how serious Chivas were in not allowing the Galaxy to push them around anymore.
Maybe this is just another cause for false hope. Only time will tell. But following a season in which Chivas USA's most notable moves were the numerous allocation picks they chose not to make, the developments of the past month have to be seen as a positive.
For more on Chivas USA, be sure to check out The Goat Parade.