Mexican businessman Jorge Vergara – the former owner of the now-defunct Major League Soccer club CD Chivas USA – died Friday in New York of a heart attack. He was 64.
Vergara was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, an expansive city in central Mexico about 200 miles inland from the country’s Pacific coast. It’s a city known well for its tequila and its soccer team, Club Deportivo Guadalajara, which has won 12 Liga MX titles and two Concacaf Champions League trophies.
Of the 26 competitions CD Guadalajara has won in its history, six arrived after Vergara purchased the club in 2002. While CD Guadalajara’s results have been mixed on a year-by-year basis since Vergara took over, the club has continued to develop talented players, most notably Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, Mexico’s top all-time scorer, who came through Guadalajara before being sold to Manchester United in 2010 for almost $8 million. The current Mexico men’s national team player pool includes six Guadalajara players: goalkeeper Raúl Gudiño, defenders Gilberto Sepúlveda and Hiram Mier, midfielder Isaác Brizuela, and forwards Alexis Vega and Alan Pulido.
CD Guadalajara posted the message “Thank you, Jorge” on its official Twitter account Friday after Vergara’s family announced his death.
El Club Deportivo Guadalajara lamenta profundamente el fallecimiento de Don Jorge Vergara.
Líder, innovador, inspirador y enorme ser humano. Tu legado vivirá siempre en el corazón de millones de mexicanos. pic.twitter.com/KZiVht0Xvm
— CHIVAS (@Chivas) November 15, 2019
Vergara’s business acumen included selling real estate, founding the health product company Grupo OmniLife and starting a production company with film director Alfonso Cuaron. He expanded his interest in soccer to the U.S. in July, 2004 when he announced his intention to launch CD Chivas USA in MLS with Antonio Cue.
But Chivas USA’s time in MLS was relatively short-lived and marred by limited successes on the field and turbulent management.
The club went 4-22-6 and finished last in the Western Conference in its inaugural season in 2005. Chivas bounced back in 2006 and clinched a playoff berth under current Los Angeles FC coach Bob Bradley and made the post-season for each of the next three years, but never made it past the Western Conference semifinals.
Chivas USA failed to finish higher than seventh in its final five years of existence, eventually folding in 2017 – three years after MLS purchased the franchise from Vergara. Average attendance at Chivas USA home games in 2017 hovered just over 7,000.
The defunct club’s legacy remains alive in a handful of former players and coaches.
Former Chivas USA players include Orlando City SC midfielder Sacha Kljestan, Houston Dynamo midfielder Tommy McNamara, New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo and Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Bradley is likely the best-known former Chivas USA coach, though current Toronto FC assistant coach Dan Calichman and New York Red Bulls goalkeeper coach Preston Burpo also previously represented Chivas USA.
Calichman filed a discrimination lawsuit against Chivas USA in 2013 alleging that he and former assistant coach Ted Chronopoulos faced discrimination because they were not Latino. Their lawsuit quoted Vergara, who is alleged to have said, “If you don’t speak Spanish, you can go work for [rival MLS club the Los Angeles] Galaxy, unless you speak Chinese, which is not even a language.”
The lawsuit was resolved in 2014, just before MLS purchased Chivas USA from Vergara. MLS said it had longterm plans for two Los Angeles-based clubs after it purchased Chivas USA and awarded the city with a new expansion team – now LAFC – three days after Chivas USA officially dissolved, on October 30, 2014.