excising the tumor

yes, goats can be tumors.

While, in general, tumors are pretty much universally regarded as bad for one’s health, some are far worse than others.

The malignant kind are the nasty ones. Growing rapidly and spreading into other body tissues, these cancerous tumors are the kind nobody wants. But then there are benign ones, often times the less troubling tumors. Unable to spread to other tissues, the non-malignant type could potentially provide little to no threats to your overall health. Though they can still be problematic — such as when they grow so much that they cause harm to surrounding organs or cause an overproduction of hormones.

But even if you were told by your doctor that you had the latter, I’d be willing to bet you would want to get rid of it. Sure, the urgency you would have for getting it removed would likely depend heavily on the type and location of that benign tumor. But if it’s one that you know is going to cause problems down the road, you’ll be scheduling its extraction sooner rather than later.

So why exactly are you being given an anatomy lesson? To put it bluntly, Chivas USA has been Major League Soccer’s benign tumor for the better part of the club’s existence. And this past week, MLS finally excised that tumor when it purchased the club from owner Jorge Vergara.

Birthed in 2005 as the league’s 11th club, the second Los Angeles team was billed as an opportunity for the league’s first true intra-city derby and a means to help MLS crack into the country’s rapidly growing Latino population. But while both those aspirations were reasonable enough, the club suffered from missteps at nearly every other junction moving forward.

Take for instance something as simple as the naming of the club, with “Chivas USA” paying homage to Vergara’s other team, CD Guadalajara — more commonly known as Chivas. Though the most popular of Mexico’s clubs, a sizable chunk of the Los Angelinos population support a rival Mexican club in the Xolos of Club Tijuana, which resides across the Mexican border. So in choosing to name the team after Chivas, they almost immediately alienated a significant chunk of their target audience. Abysmal attendance numbers, being the only team in the league without a television deal and yearly financial figures always ending in the red — not to mention perennially poor performances on the field — were further stains on Chivas USA’s soiled reputation.

However, where the club really inflicted the most damage with their personnel policies.

Out the gates, the club insisted that they would to attempt to stock the team only with players with Mexican/Hispanic ties. This practice had proven fruitful in Liga MX for the parent club, so at least in Vergara’s eyes, it should work north of the border as well. But as it turns out, relying upon a sizably smaller player pool than their peers and fading Mexican league talent wasn’t a way to find on-field success in MLS. And though a period of marginal success followed the clubs abandonment of that policy, clearly no lessons were learned as it was reinstated in 2011.

former owner jorge vergara’s time at the club needed to come to an end.

This time, however, the re-introduction of the Latino-only policy was not only meant for playing staff. Several front office officials as well as youth club coaching staff were relieved of their duties, the latter of which resulted an embarrassing and high-profile racial discrimination lawsuit that was only settled out of court last week.

So how exactly does all of this make Chivas USA the league’s benign tumor?

Much like with the presence of non-malignant growths in the body, MLS on the whole wasn’t suffering too terribly from Chivas USA’s presence in the league. Yeah, their poor attendances helped to drag down the league average, but they were more of an outlier than an indication of a growing trend. And yes, their legal issues made for some uncomfortable moments for Don Garber and the MLS PR machine, but those were far overshadowed by the positive news about expansion and growth.

Though If Chivas USA’s troubles were left unchecked and remained on the current increasing trajectory, it’s quite possible that the club could become a far larger issue for the league on the whole. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see MLS lumped in as a defendant on future lawsuits for allowing Chivas USA’s discriminatory practices, or even future TV deals being scuttled as networks would be wary of associating themselves with that kind of negative publicity.

And that’s why MLS had to take action: like a rapidly growing tumor, the league needed to excise Chivas USA before it upset the rest of the system.

Where the club goes from here — that remains to be seen. New owners will need to be brought in, a stadium of their own built, and a rebranding to distance themselves from their sickly past are all necessities. But the league did what it had to preserve its health, and that’s something worth celebrating.

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