In an op-ed column that ran in the nine-newspaper Los Angeles News Group today, UCLA labor professor Victor Narro slammed Galaxy sponsors Herbalife for taking advantage of economically disadvantaged Latinos as part of its routine business practices and called for a state investigation into the issue.
These are natural sponsorships given the U.S. Latino population’s love for soccer, but clearly raises questions about the economic relationship between the company, the sport and a vulnerable demographic group.
Herbalife is no stranger to controversy and government investigations, but it appears AYSO, MLS and the Galaxy are much more interested in looking the other way given the millions the company contributes to soccer in this country (and around the world for that matter as the Herbalife ads illustrating this blog post demonstrate).
While we’re on the subject of questionable business practices, it should be noted that Galaxy rivals Chivas USA shouldn’t be gloating over this negative publicity either. That club’s owner, Jorge Vergara, has enriched himself with a Mexican version of Herbalife dubbed Omnilife that uses a pretty much identical marketing scheme.
Not unexpectedly for a club with a mere half dozen MLS victories last season, hapless Chivas USA announced today it has declined to pick up options on or banished back to Guadalajara a slew of players who clearly were simply not up to MLS standards.
Here’s more from the club press release:
Chivas USA announced today that the club has sent back defenders Mario de Luna and Jaime Frias as well as midfielder Edgar Mejia and forward Julio Morales to Club Deportivo Guadalajara. In addition, the club has declined options for goalkeeper Patrick McLain, defender Steven Purdy, midfielders Daniel Antunez, Marvin Iraheta and Josue Soto, and forward Jose Manuel Rivera.
A number of them played major roles in the club’s awful season such as midfielder Mejia, who scored just one goal while appearing in 27 of the club’s games.
Mexico finally won in San Diego Wednesday night before an unusually small crowd that illustrates the depth of the skepticism over the quality of this Mexican team, while the U.S. women drew New Zealand.
A Portland team that could still win the MLS regular season crown meets one of the league’s chronic losers tonight in Carson, with Chivas USA needing a win merely to equal last year’s pathetic total of seven wins that itself represented the franchise’s worst performance since their opening season in 2005.
It’s an alleged “new era” that sadly looks a lot like the old one for a club that shows no signs of shaking off an ingrained malaise that should have the league office reacting in alarm as promised back in July, but instead leaves one wondering whether MLS Commish Don Garber is getting in some practice of genuflecting to wealthy, clueless team owners before fleeing for the NFL as conjectured.
In fairness, the club hinted at better times briefly late in the season, on the field at least. But with Chivas USA likely to start all over again in the offseason if the current coach leaves as expected, a roster largely bereft of MLS quality players and a management and ownership team that inspires confidence in virtually no one, it’s hard to see any end to one of the most slowly unfolding and humiliating marketing disasters in professional sports.
The Timbers, in contrast, are everything Chivas USA is not, but should be. A savvy owner, deliriously loyal fan base, quick to adapt to MLS wily coach, exciting players capable of incisive, cunning football, and superb venue have combined to make one of the league’s greatest success stories with the potential for much more to come.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy arguably have much more at stake in this game than their local rivals, who after this game will slink off into the wilderness of the MLS winter as much adrift as ever.
Chivas USA’s 2-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake Wednesday night that denied the Galaxy a chance to finish first in the Western Conference has put LA in the odd spot of cheering for their regional rivals for the second consecutive game this coming weekend as the MLS season concludes.
A win or a tie by Chivas USA in Carson Saturday against the second place Portland Timbers combined with a Galaxy victory over the Sounders in Seattle Sunday would give LA second place in the division. That’s because Portland and the Galaxy would be tied on points (with a Timbers win), but the positional tie breaker is total wins, not goal difference and LA would have two more wins than the Timbers.
Despite coach Bruce Arena’s protestations earlier in the week about the timing of the game, the contest might actually help the Galaxy’s MLS playoff cause in one respect by giving returning defender A.J. DeLaGarza valuable minutes before the playoffs begin, while keeping suspended midfielder Juninho fresh for much the same reason.
Finally, Galaxy fans should take a moment to click on the following link to give former defender Chris Albright his fair due as he bids farewell to the game.
Albright was always a quiet locker room leader who knew how to set an example on and off the field. Quite simply one of the classiest and most articulate spokesman for the sport I have ever had the pleasure to interview, I’m guessing we haven’t heard the last of him in a coaching or some other capacity in MLS.