A Map for Renovating Santa Ana Stadium

No, I haven’t dropped this subject. Nor will I.

Granted, Santa Ana Stadium isn’t only a soccer venue. It stages all kinds of events and it will continue to do so. But why not with some sorely-needed renovation?

Pro soccer continues to grow and evolve around the country and not only in the now overly-mentioned Major League Soccer division. The North American Soccer League (Division 2) is adding 3 teams in 2016 in Miami, Puerto Rico and Oklahoma City, and the United Soccer League (Division 3) adds teams at a frequent rate. The latter leagues don’t make an issue about building a stadium first, in order to “secure” a club, or franchise, to be more precise. MLS is entirely about having a stadium deal in place, deals done with city governments that at times include getting tax breaks or anything having to do with reducing costs for those proposing expansion franchises. In Miami and Queens, NY, for example, MLS tried to sway government to give them some of the most scenic land to build stadiums, but ended up getting shut out of Queens, and is looking like their options have run out in Miami too. Theirs is a top-down approach to starting up a new team, and it never happens without the blessings and piles of cash associated with NBA, NFL or MLB owners. That is how those owners want to run a “major” soccer league, one called Division 1, that is supposed to be perceived as the top league. Why? Because it’s run by guys with experience running American sports leagues. The problem is soccer is a global sport and not simply an American sport.

The North American Soccer league differs from MLS in a number of ways, one of which is in its approach to building clubs organically, starting small in venues that are already built, which gets us to the main point. Santa Ana has a very potent city-owned resource in disrepair in Santa Ana Stadium.

So how can Santa Ana Stadium be renovated, if the city wanted it to be?

Political Will

Worry not, Santa Ana councilpersons, city manager, etc., it’s ok to like soccer. Really, it is! Don’t feel ashamed that it’s a sport associated with your Mexican / Latino ancestry. I know some of you are big on baseball and the NFL, and are as American as bratwürsten, I mean, hot dogs, but really it’s ok to have worldly taste in sport. No?

Look at politicos in the city of St. Paul, MN that okayed a land use deal with MLS to add a franchise there.

Look at San Antonio that put in some of their own money to buy from Toyota Field stadium from a private developer, the owner of the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions. I’m not saying the city of Santa Ana should pay anything to a private developer, mind you. I’m giving examples.

In Sacramento, their mayor Kevin Johnson is the biggest cheerleader for an MLS expansion franchise, gleefully touting stadium renderings for the world to see.

City governments have shown a willingness to house pro soccer, and to have multi-use in their facilities, all around the country. New stadiums have been built very recently, and new ones and or redevelopment of existing ones are slated to happen in Orlando, Portland (converted a baseball stadium), Kansas City,  Houston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and in other parts.

So how are some ways that Santa Ana can maximize the use of such a potent city resource like Santa Ana Stadium?

Stadium sponsor

First off, never mind tearing it down. Never mind reorienting it to face the “East End” of the downtown. It’s orientation is fine the way it is. And it’ll keep the cost down! What it does need is complete improvement of its caged-up concession stands (at least what they appear to be) and just overall upgrades to seats, the press box, maybe throw in some Wi Fi–no, it’s a must that it have powerful Wi Fi to broadcast games from there, which is the way of the future.

Our stadium missed out on the age of stadium sponsorships. I remember when Anaheim Stadium was just that, before it became Edison Field. In came the era of the Arrowhead Ponds, Home Depot Centers, Nokia Theaters, etc, etc. And we stayed as is all of this time. No disrespect to the memory of Eddie West, but I’m sure if he were here today he’d love to cover a game in a venue reflective of its time. So why not be proactive towards finding a stadium sponsor for our stadium? Look at our corporate tenants: Ingram Micro, Behr, Yokohama, First American… who else?

Models for stadium redevelopment

Public-private partnerships around pro soccer proposals abound around the country. There are the examples I gave before in Sacramento, San Antonio and St. Paul, but lets focus on St. Paul for a minute.

The investment group bringing a franchise to St. Paul brokered a deal with the city that involves a primary building expense covered by the franchisees (the investment group). That expense is to be paid back by the city on payments. The details / terms of those payments were negotiable, of course.

In Detroit, the Detroit City Football (soccer) Club formed a partnership with a school district to redevelop Keyworth Stadium, for their use in 2016.

Contingency plan

If for whatever reason Santa Ana Stadium can’t be renovated, there’s another option for pro soccer at Centennial Park. The soccer complex at Centennial can be modeled like the one at Silverbacks Park in Atlanta, GA, which was also renovated and expanded to seat 5,000 spectators.

Another option is at Santa Ana College. The track field, where the SAC Dons football and LA Kiss of the Arena Football League train, can have seats added if necessary, if the right partnership is reached with the college and its district.

Lastly

Modern-day Santa Ana stakeholders inherited a stadium that has tremendous potential. A renovated stadium coupled with the new downtown attractions would be an economic boost to the city. Elected city councilpersons favoring an upgraded Santa Ana Stadium would be putting the city on the map. It is true that city council has been cooperative in the past with other plans to bring pro soccer to the city, like in the case of Major League Soccer’s defunct Chivas USA and their upcoming Los Angeles Football Club. But the city, we, shouldn’t be deterred by MLS or anyone, from our intentions of realizing our potential as a soccer city.

Mexico Sends its Strongest-Ever Team to World Cup in Brazil

El Tri will arrive in Brazil with their strongest team ever assembled, at least on paper. Never before has Mexico gone to a World Cup after having won an olympic gold medal. This year Mexico sends nine olympic champions from the London games in 2012. This is a team that defeated Brazil in that 2012 London final, where the Brazilians had the likes of Neymar and Hulk on their squad, their’s was no B team.

This Mexican squad looks good on paper, but the obvious concern for them is the disastrous World Cup Qualifiers of 2013, that almost left them out of the cup. But the 2013 qualifying squad wasn’t managed by Luis Fernando Tena, who coached El Tri to their first-ever olympic gold medal. Some argue, including this writer, that Tena should have been put at the helm of the 2013 squad, up to this day. But he graciously stepped aside to allow Chepo de la Torre, who won a 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, a chance to save qualification and his job. That proved to be too risky, as players and morale went out the window under De la Torre. Out went Carlos Vela, and for a time Marco Fabián wasn’t called up during qualifiers.

Now that 2012 Olympic Champion squad, very wisely, is being reassembled and reinforced with players playing in Europe, which has never occurred in the history of the Mexican National Team.

In addition to the olympic championship, there are players that experienced winning the 2011 Gold Cup, and Liga MX Champions taken from Clubs Toluca, América and León. As the Adidas Brazuca feature on Mexico says, it’s truly now or never for Mexico to excel in a World Cup, as they’ve never sent as strong a side to the cup until now.

Mexican Olympic Champions at London 2012:

Goalkeeper

José de Jesús Corona (Cruz Azul)

Defenders:

Carlos Salcido (Tigres)
Diego Reyes (Porto)

Midfielders

Miguel Ponce (Toluca)
Marco Fabián (Cruz Azul)
Héctor Herrera (Porto)

Strikers

Giovanni Dos Santos (Villareal)
Oribe Peralta (Santos Laguna / América)
Raúl Jiménez (América)

2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Champions

Rafael Márquez (León)
Andrés Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen)
Javier Hernández (Manchester United)
Héctor Moreno (Espanyol)
Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio)

Liga MX Champions

Paul Aguilar (América)
Isaác Brizuela (Toluca)
Miguel Layún (América)
Luis Montes (León)
Carlos Peña (León)
Francisco Rodríguez (América)
José Juan Vásquez (León)

It should be noted that Guillermo Ochoa didn’t see too much action during the 2011 Gold Cup, except for a match against El Salvador in the group stage. Alfredo Talavera then played the
remaining two games of the group stage and the subsequent quarterfinal, semifinal and final matches.

Alan Pulido has Mexico U23 experience but not a championship title. However, he made the final cut by demonstrating an explosive, streaking form in recent games, in which he scored a hat-trick, and a game-tying goal against the United States to end their 2-0 hegemony and streak over Mexico.

Chivas USA to Televise Rest of 2014 Games on Santa Ana’s KDOC

So the Chivas USA to Santa Ana saga continues. Chivas USA have a “home,” if you will in Santa Ana, albeit on the KDOC TV network, which is headquartered on Grand street.

The club televised a portion of their games on KDOC last season, and they’ve renewed this season, which leaves us wondering if they’ll be back on KDOC next season under an expected new ownership group and brand. Signs point to Chivas USA being re-branded as either Los Angeles Football Club or Los Angeles Soccer Club, as Major League Soccer acquired the rights to these trademarks and registered them with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Chivas USA, in some form, did come to Santa Ana after all, only not complete with a stadium and complex for their youth academy. At least Santa Ana had some role to play in support of the club prior to its re-branding, with regard to their local tv deal. And Santa Ana may remain synonymous with the club going forward with a new start in 2015.

Daniel Antúnez Scores in U.S. Open Cup

PORTLAND. Former Chivas USA midfielder Daniel Antúnez of Santa Ana, CA scored a game-winning goal for his new team Arizona United versus the Portland Timbers U-23 team.

Antúnez missed most of last season due to a knee injury suffered in a match at the Home Depot Center against the Colorado Rapids. Last season Antúnez started to get more and more minutes eventually becoming a starter while earning the trust of former coach José Luis Sánchez Solá, aka Chelís.

The U.S. Open Cup is the longest-running soccer tournament in this country, pitting nationwide amateur and professional leagues in competition. Arizona United are in their inaugural year in the United Soccer Leagues Professional Division. The Portland Timbers Under 23 team, an affiliate of Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers, competes in the USL Premier Development League.

The match from Portland is archived in its entirety on YouTube. The action begins at the 18’45” mark:

Santa Ana Winds FC get a new logo… and?

The Santa Ana Winds Football (Soccer) Club, formerly of the National Premier Soccer League, have resurfaced with a much-improved, and sorely needed, team crest. But they still don’t have a home field in Santa Ana proper. Instead, this team plays some of its “home” games in Aliso Viejo. And the team still doesn’t have its online presence down. Their dot com is inoperable and there’s no Twitter account. It’s shameful. Why re-brand if you’re not going to set your brand to market? The point is to project it and have a presence, make a mark, get on the map, get on the radar.

Santa Ana is flooded with soccer leagues, seemingly all competing with each other for fields. Santa Ana’s Parks & Recreation Director Gerardo Mouet said that these leagues tend to fight over Santa Ana’s Soccer Complex at Centennial Park, for example.

Because of this lack of organized soccer leagues in Santa Ana, it makes it difficult to unite behind a common goal, one that ideally has a pro-level or semi-pro team representing the city. No, it doesn’t have to be a Major League Soccer club, but perhaps one in the NPSL or maybe even the NASL. The truth is, any better-organized club at whatever level bearing the city’s name is better than the scattered, bickering teams and unaffiliated amateur leagues that aren’t really thinking of forming behind a common Santa Ana name, which would only be good for the city’s projection and brand.

Santa Ana could have an elevated profile in competitive soccer if the field at Centennial were better utilized and marketed. There’s also the new field at Santa Ana College, which is available for rent. But there’s been no team, or business plan, that has effectively identified with, and led to cementing a semi-pro to professional level soccer team bearing Santa Ana’s name.

What we have instead is one giant squandered opportunity given all of the talent here combined with the lack of a team with the inability to capture the Santa Ana soccer market.

Piojo Herrera Coming to Santa Ana

The Mexican Men’s National Team coach Miguel “El Piojo” Herrera is coming to Santa Ana for this city’s Cinco de Mayo celebration downtown.

Herrera is scheduled to appear for an hour according to the city’s Parks and Recreation Director, Gerardo Mouet. The exact time and day is yet to be confirmed.

Santa Ana has traditionally hosted many “A level” Mexican celebrities for its Cinco de Mayo and Fiestas Patrias in September, the likes of Juan Gabriel, Lupita D’Alessio, Moderatto, Aleks Syntek, Miguel Rodarte, Héctor Jiménez and many more.

The tradition continues this year with the highly visible Miguel Herrera.

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Reality Check Time for MLS & Chivas USA

“L.A.S.C.!,” exclaimed the Black Army supporters group in section 138 repeatedly minutes before the kickoff to the 1st edition of the 2014 Clásico Angelino, aka SuperClásico, last Sunday.

Spirits were high in the stands and in section 101, where the Union Ultras take center stage.

But motivation was not enough combined with an awfully deficient Chivas USA squad that failed to string together passes and generate offense.

There is support from people that want an alternative MLS option in LA. The 2014 version of Chivas USA are that team that the league is trying to build to manufacture an LA derby like the league wants to do in NY, but that team on Sunday was completely erased from the field against the Galaxy. And this is insightful if not ominous. And those games against the Galaxy are the ones that this second LA side needs to win above the rest, save for a playoff game or two, if they ever return to the postseason.

Will a rebranded Chivas USA continue to disappoint when matched against the Galaxy fast forward to 2015 or beyond? The first sign, this most recent loss to the Galaxy, is telling.

Maybe it’s the years that the Galaxy have playing on their home pitch, their familiarity with it, that has them dominating Chivas, or most other teams anyway. They have more continuity as a unit and under one coach and one style of play. Speaking of which, the Galaxy’s display on Sunday, their wide style of grounded passing, reminded me very much of CF Pachuca under coach Enrique “Ojitos” Meza, the team that won a Mexican league, 2 CONCACAF Cups, the Copa Sudamericana, and a SuperLiga, this last one they took from the Galaxy.

And it’s the absolute opposite at Chivas USA. There have been 5 coaches at Chivas USA (Preki, Vásquez, Fraser, Real, Cabrera) during Bruce Arena’s time at the Galaxy. What is MLS to do to fix the problem of its 2nd LA franchise? Are they going to continue hitting the reset button every season with a different coach and staff? Again, it’s said that MLS has been steering Chivas USA, in part, years before it’s acquisition of the club.

The team shown on Sunday is not the caliber opponent needed to take on the Galaxy and attract an LA audience and build a market around it. Maybe it was coach Cabrera’s lineup, that started with speedy left-winger Leandro Barrera on the bench, which was a odd. The midfield was a disaster, as 2nd year player Carlos Álvarez is not the seasoned midfield orchestrator and decision-maker that he needs to be. He tends to complicate himself more than necessary when in possession, thus losing it.

The kind of team needed to remain in LA needs a long-term process. This explains why Cabrera was brought on, in part to instill his philosophy in the reputable Chivas USA Academy. He’s stated that he doesn’t emphasize possession…well surely the match on Sunday showed his team deplete of ideas of how to attack when on possession.

To MLS’s credit, they’ve been very patient with their 2nd LA franchise over the years. But now, again, a new process is in order, one drawing from an academy system and one that, hopefully, MLS has all the patience in the world to see develop into an ideal franchise before other expansion-hopeful cities come knocking. It’s back to the drawing board, yet again, with Chivas USA and or Los Angeles FC/SC.