JOB to Chivas USA
Earlier speculations have been confirmed: Chivas USA has signed US midfielder, ex-Ajax player and WC2002 star John O'Brien. A short list of what's great about this move:
- JOB is back in the WC mix. Only a month or so ago, I'd basically written off the possibility that he'd be able to recover in time for or contribute to the American World Cup effort. But with absolutely no time left to spare, it looks like JOB is healthy and will have a couple months of games to get match-fit for the tournament. Given how much vision and talent he brings, this is wonderful news for the US.
- Chivas is no longer a joke. Chivas USA weren't just the worst team in MLS last year, they were one of the worst teams in MLS history, ever. This new-look side seems to have much more going for it, at least if Sunday's 3-0 pasting of Real Salt Lake is any indication. However, with Ante Razov, Ryan Suarez, and now John O'Brien, they're a team of real credibility that should be hard for anyone to beat, and a lock to make the playoffs. Plus, think of the implications for the LA derby. Last year it was less a derby than a humiliation in four parts (though it did save the Galaxy's playoff hopes with twelve points). With Landon facing off against JOB, this is a match that all US fans will want to tune in to.
- Chivas is no longer (largely) using a racial/ethnic standard in choosing players. I am always happy to see any new ownership enter the league, but I was skeptical of Vergara and Chivas last year because it seemed that one element of his project--selecting a largely hispanic team--drew the kind of racial lines that have long been rejected in American public life. The new-look 2006 Chivas appear to have laid that bad experiment to rest, with JOB's hiring the final nail in that particular coffin. This is great news for C-USA's fans, who comprise a major hinchada behind the goal but suffered through some awful performances in '05. Their loyalty deserves a good team, and it does them a disservice to prioritize some sense of racial identity at the cost of putting the best possible team on the field.
The sole caveat: I hope he can stay healthy. Of course, this is always a concern with O'Brien, who's played around eight Eredivisie games during his last three years in Holland. But you have to play if you want to get match-fit, and you play there's always some risk of injury. All things considered, this is a great development.
Additional note: best moment from the press conference was JOB giving his remarks in Spanish, English, and (to some extent) in Dutch. I like the idea that C-USA will retain indicia of its Mexican identity as a part of the Guadalajara organization, but I'm also glad that the idea of a largely hispanic roster has been abandoned.
A concern: a reporter asked JOB if he's 100% (as his agent claimed he was). JOB said he's not, but that he'll be working to get back into games over the next month. Apparently the latest health setback was a groin injury not the calf-and-hamstring issues that had plagued him in the past.