Wednesday, September 03, 2008

PCB Field Trip: Chivas USA vs Toronto FC 

Posted by Sasha at 11:10 PM ET

Back row: Nicole, Dalila, Ashley, Linette, Megan, Jess, Celeste, Whitney, and Lauren
Front row: Michelle, Marie, Jessica, Alana, Kelley, Amy, and Monique.

On Saturday I went to my very first Major League Soccer (MLS) Game. Chivas USA hosted Toronto FC at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. This was an exciting opportunity for me, as I had never been to a professional soccer game. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn a whole lot about soccer that evening. I was focused on other stuff, as you will see. [Loads of photos right here]

A note for aspiring pro-team dancers in the So Cal area: stick with me on this one. If you’re looking to break into this type of entertainment, I suggest you keep the ChivaGirls in mind. Auditions aren’t until February, but if I’ve done my job here, you’ll definitely want to be there.

A little background info

When this blog first started, it focused exclusively on NFL dance teams. (Hence the URL nflcheerleader.blogspot.com. Don’t worry. That will change soon.) Over time, we followed as some of our favorite dancers moved from one team to another and from one league to another. Before we knew it, the Blog had grown to include just about every pro and semi-pro league in the country, and a few in foreign territories. During this expansion, I began investigating the various dance teams here in my own back yard.

One of the teams I came across was Chivas USA, a Major League Soccer franchise located here in the Los Angeles area. In this part of the country, we have a large immigrant population from Central and South America. Soccer…er “football” is HUGE in Latin America, so when people immigrate here, they often bring their love of the game. I don’t know much about soccer. But there are a lot of people in this area who do, and a lot of them are die-hard Chivas USA fans.

The game day experience for a Chivas fan includes promos, music, drumming, contests, and best of all – the ChivaGirls. (ChivaGirls. One word, thankyouverymuch.) I’ll be perfectly honest, when I first encountered the ChivaGirls a few years ago, I was kind of meh about it. Soccer. Dance team. Funny stripey dresses. Moving on…

In the last couple of years, I’ve become more aware of MLS dance teams. I’d had some contact with the newly minted Houston Dynamo girls, but still didn’t know much about dance teams in the league. And then a confluence of very specific events led me to Aimee Edmonson, Director of the ChivaGirls. (I could go into that, but then we’d be here all day.)

So last month, I decided to try my luck. I’m learning all sorts of mind-broadening lessons this summer. One being “No" doesn’t mean no. No means "it’s time to switch tactics.” The other important lesson being “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” So I asked. I wanted to go to a Chivas USA game and snap some photos of the ChivaGirls in their natural habitat. And Aimee – in a moment of weakness I’m sure she deeply regrets – said yes. And that’s how the whole thing started.

Getting back to Saturday…

Aimee sent me the schedule for the day. The girls would get started at 4:15 with an on-field rehearsal and sound check. After that, they have a chance to change and freshen up. There’s a meet and greet on the concourse, then pre-game, then halftime, then a visit to the sponsors suite, and then they’d pack it in for the day. It promised to be an action-packed experience. I was WAY excited and I planned to be there for every bit of it.

I started off by getting there at the wrong time. Sheesh – typical, right? Aimee and the girls were on the field rehearsing, so I left a vmail for Aimee and scoped out a good spot from which to gaze upon the giant poster of David Beckham. There are worse ways to pass the time.

I spotted a couple of guys with drums going through a set of double doors. It seemed to me like a pretty good idea to follow them in. I figured the drums meant they weren’t planning to do anything nefarious. Or if they were planning to do something nefarious, they’d have to put down the drums first, which would give me plenty of time to am-scray. In the meantime, I’d get to hang out in the air conditioned comfort of the reception area, so I followed them.

Eventually the guy behind the desk wanted to know what I was doing in there. I told him I was waiting on Aimee and he picked the phone and called her before I could stop him.

If I may sidebar for a moment, one of my pet peeves is when someone emails me and then calls me 10 seconds later to see if I got the message. This happens all the time at work, usually followed by the same person walking down the hall to see if I got the email and the phone message. Dude, could you BE more annoying?

Right, so I’d just left Aimee a message and didn’t want the guy to call her two seconds later to say I was waiting for her. Oh well. Too late. The guy spoke with Aimee for a second, gave me a visitor’s badge, and turned me loose in the arena.


I came out of the tunnel and hark! There they were on the horizon. One little, two little, three little ChivaGirls. Four little, five little, six little ChivaGirls. Seven little, eight little, nine little…whatever. There were 16 of them.

I was about halfway over there when Kelley jogged over to say hello. I wasn’t ready to come face to face with one of my beloved former Clippers girls! So much for my plan to creep stealthily around the perimeter, find an unobtrusive spot, and will myself to become invisible.

Kelley asked if I remembered her from Clippers. “Hmmm. Clippers Clippers Clippers. It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t think where I’ve heard that name before. You say it’s some sort of athletic team? Sorry, it’s just not ringing a bell.”

What I really said was “Hi.” Once again, Sasha Williams, brilliant conversationalist, at your service.

The thing is, I’m still not used to these situations. Honest to pete, every single time it feels like I’m getting away with something. Like I’m sneaking in and if I’m very very quiet, no one will notice I’m there and kick me out. So when someone comes over and says hello directly to me, my I’m all “EEEK! You can SEE me??”


The ChivaGirls were on the field going over their hip hop dance for halftime. I saw straightaway that it was a completely unfair situation. Due to the time of day and shape of the building, about half of the field was in shadow. The girls in front were in the shade. The girls in the back were standing in the full sun, with rays of light beaming directly into their eyeballs.

Later in the evening, I discovered that ChivaGirls are called upon to rehearse under a variety of conditions. With or without music. With or without room to move. With or without sunlight. Those girls are always rehearsing.

They ran through the routine, a few times full-out, pausing in between for notes from Aimee. They adjusted the music a few times to make sure the girls could hear it clearly, Then they ran though the routine a couple more times for good measure. When Aimee was happy with the way it looked, she ended the rehearsal and everyone went inside to the locker room. Take a good look at these women in their everyday disguises. The next time you see them, they will be CHIVAGIRLS!

Jessica, Linette, Megan, and Nicole

Down in the locker room, the girls began their transformation into CHIVAGIRLS! This required a mind-boggling amount of clothing, makeup, curling irons, and other assorted health and beauty aids. (Believe me – you have NO idea.)

Next thing I know, this brunette walks up to me with big friendly "Hi Sasha!" It took me a second –– Ashley, is that you???? Ashley is the other of my beloved former Clippers girls who doubles as a ChivaGirl. When I didn’t see her on the field, I figured she’d had to resign because she’s a Laker Girl now. How was I to know she was going to darken her hair and walk around looking like a totally different person?

When I was little, my sister and I used to watch reruns of that old show “I Dream of Jeannie.” Remember? Jeannie was a blonde jeannie in a bottle and she was discovered by Larry Hagman and was his love slave or something. (Only they never called it that.). Every now and again, Jeannie’s evil twin sister, also named Jeannie, would pay her a visit. They looked exactly the same, only the other Jeannie had black hair and her outfit was a different color. Two Jeannies, one name, two different hair colors, and one actress. Try wrapping your brain around that concept when you’re a little kid.

This situation was kind of like that.

Was this the Good Ashley? Or Ashley the Evil World-Destroying Cyborg?

I’m pretty sure it was Good Ashley…(Or was it...?)

I had some time to hang out with these women, and these are some cool chicks. This seems like a really fun team to be part of. They all have different stuff going on, and they’re all just a wee bit goofy.


I also learned a few interesting things in the ChivaGirls locker room.

First thing I learned: They need assistance. A Sherpa, a bellboy, perhaps a well-trained pack animal. Watching them exit the building, you would think they’d been bunking there for a week. In my opinion, Aimee needs one of those old-fashioned steamer trunks with wheels. And a stevedore to push it around for her. (Yeah, that’s right. I used the word “stevedore.” Don’t act like you’re not impressed.)

Second thing I learned: one of Aimee’s favorite phrases is “Are you kidding me right now??” This can mean many things, depending on the situation, including the following:

Third thing I learned: the 11th commandment. Thou shalt keep thy Sharpie pen capped. From what I have observed, ChivaGirls are not to be trusted with Sharpie pens. I’m told this is because they tend to get ink on their skirts. I think there’s more to it that that. What – exactly – I don’t know.

Fourth thing I learned: Aimee was a Laker Girl in the 80s. Even better than that – Aimee was in the Laker Girls movie, starring Tina Yothers and that woman from Baywatch. And she was wearing MC Hammer Pants! This cannot be missed. At this very moment, I am scouring YouTube for a video clip.

Fifth thing I learned: It’s Da-LEE-la, not Da-LIE-la, alright? Don't get it twisted.

Sixth thing I learned: Aimee had given me an all-access pass. That’s what it said on the front: ALL ACCESS in big letters. And since I’m not technically associated with the ChivaGirls, I don’t have to abide by the ChivaRules. If I wanted to, I could mosey on down to the boys’ locker room and have a look-see. “What’s up fellas?” Maybe I could get them to do that thing where they bounce the soccer ball off their heads.

I didn’t do that. But I bet I could have, if I wanted to.

All Access. Them’s powerful words.


Most ChivaGirls get to the ChivaLair and complete their ChivaTransformation in a timely manner. Then there’s Jess and Kelley. It took Jess about three minutes to get ready. She spent the rest of the time tapping away on her iBook. She was doing homework – or so I was told. Very sketchy behavior, if you ask me. How do you know she’s not over there typing out her manifesto? How do you know she’s not emailing sensitive ChivaInfo to outside parties?

She should be watched, is all I’m saying.

Kelley, on the other hand, is at the other end of the spectrum. Kelley uses every available second. Give Kelley 15 minutes to complete a task, and she’s done in 14 minutes, 59 seconds. Not one minute sooner. Not one minute later. I think she does this to mess with Aimee’s head. (Kelley – are you kidding me right now?)

Meet and Greet

Once everyone was dressed, coiffed, prepped, and briefed, it was time to head up to the concourse for the meet and greet. The ChivaGirls piled into the elevator and off we went. Once outside, they spread out to mix and mingle and sign autographs. There were red and white stripes from one end of the place to another. It was a “Where’s Waldo” situation. Can you spot the ChivaGirl?

Clockwise from bottom: Ashley. Linette, Whitney, and Alana





Monique and Michelle

After much meeting, greeting, autographing, and picture-taking, the girls went back to the underground ChivaLair to grab their poms and head out to the field for pre-game.

Aimee had a few last-minute notes, and then the girls went out to form two lines leading from the tunnel out to center field. The fans yelled, the drummers drummed, the ChivaGirls waved, and then the soccer guys came barreling through. They were followed by a swarm of small people in red shirts. I didn’t see any screaming and/or ducking for cover, so I can only assume that the Red Swarm had been cleared for field access.

The arena host announced that they were going to play the Canadian national anthem, but then they…didn’t. There was an awkwardly long pause, followed by the announcement that they were having “technical difficulties” and we were moving on to the US anthem. As Aimee pointed out – that was a lot of dead air for a televised game.


After the anthem and “plaaaay balll!” or whatever it is they say at the beginning of a soccer game, the ChivaGirls headed for the perimeter. One line went to the left and the other to the right. They circled the field, one group going clockwise, the other counterclockwise, waving to the fans, signing autographs, etc. I was going to follow them, but it’s not like they weren’t coming back, you know?

While I was waiting, a couple of people asked me what newspaper I was with. My All-Access pass made me look very official, I'm sure. I put my nose in the air and said “Ahem. I’m with the ChivaGirls.”

I’m going to get a shirt that says “ChivaTographer” on the back. Maybe a hat too. Or would that be too much?

Looking back, I wish I’d told them I was with the Wall Street Journal. Or the National Enquirer.

After the walk-around, it was back to the ChivaLair to prep for half-time. Costume change! (Note the gear provided by ChivaSponsor Adidas.)


During this time, I learned a few more interesting tidbits about the ChivaGirls. John Peters does some of their choreography. (Love him.) Angela King designed the uniforms. (Love her.) And get this – the ChivaGirls are salaried. Not only that but they also get an hourly fee for appearances and such. That’s very rare in this industry.

As it turns out, there’s a whole story behind this. The ChivaGirls of yesteryear aren’t the CHIVAGIRLS who stand before you today. Not even two years ago, there was a big move to revamp everything in ChivaWorld, to make it bigger, better, faster, nicer. More fun! New and Improved! Now with Crunchberries!

A new director (Aimee) took over. Fully backed by the Chivas USA organization, Aimee jumped right in and began making sweeping changes. Say bye-bye to the requirement that all ChivaGirls speak fluent Spanish. Say hello to better choreography, better costumes, better management and – of course – better dancers. One way to attract the best dancers: Get the girls out in the community and create some buzz. Another way to attract the best dancers: pay them for their time. A novel concept indeed! And Aimee’s got even more plans in the works. Their upcoming calendar shoot, for instance.

Seriously girls, if you can dance, are in good shape, and are interested in getting into this industry; I can’t encourage you enough to audition for this team. They’re in the middle of the season right now, so auditions won’t happen until February-ish. However, the details will be out in December and you best believe I’ll let you know as soon as I have the information.

After everyone had changed, they did a quick rehearsal in the locker room. Followed by more rehearsal in the tunnel, then it was back to the field for the halftime break. It was hard to believe the game was already half over. Where had the time gone?

Aimee said it was ok for me to go right out on the field with my camera. I halfway expected to be zapped by an electric fence the minute I stepped on the grass. It was weird being on the field. Just me, a camera guy, and the ChivaGirls, and the stands full of people. I was waiting for someone to grab me by the collar and drag me out of there. I’m wearing green next time, so I blend.

Aimee and I discussed it afterward and agreed that should anyone try to yank me off the field, my best bet is to run into the middle of the ChivaGirls and bust a move like I belonged there.

On a side note, if security ever comes after me, I fully expect the ChivaGirls to come to my aid. I am sure they would automatically form a protective circle and defend me with their chunky-heeled boots and flaming Poms of Death.

And if they didn’t…well I’d be lying if I said that wouldn’t put a bit of a strain on our relationship.

In the end, the halftime performance was smashing. (It darn well should’ve been, given the number of times they’d rehearsed it.)

You might think that after all that, it would be time to chillax in the ChivaLair. But if you did think that, you would be wrong. The girls had a few minutes to freshen up, and then they were off again. This time, they went going up to the Chivas Regal suite to say hello, sign autographs, etc. with some VIPs.

As we were loading up into the elevator, Kelley gave everyone a stern look. They had a schedule to stick to. Every ChivaGirl was to stay with the group. No chit-chat. No stopping for autographs.

As if. Kelley, if I recall correctly, was one of the worst offenders after pre-game. When everyone else was headed up the tunnel, where was Kelly? Signing autographs.

Some little kid is standing there looking at you with big puppy dog eyes, and you’re going to tell him to get lost? Ok, let’s see you do it. I double-dog dare you.

As far as I could tell, just about every kid who asked for an autograph got one. That's all I'm saying.

There wasn’t much going on in the ChivaSuite. There were only a few people in there, a couple of them too young to vote, drive, or enlist in the army. Marie seemed quite taken with one little boy. We didn’t stay up there very long. Then – you guessed it – back to the ChivaLair.

Alana and Kelley

I was ready to see what came next. Guess what? NOTHING. Those ChivaGirls changed into their street clothes quicker than Superman in a phone booth, and they were outta there. ChivaGirls don’t have to stay until the end of the game. They get to leave and avoid the crowds and traffic. If you ask me, that's just good planning.

Before they all left, Aimee made sure the girls going on promos the next day had plenty of team photo cards and Sharpies. ChivaGirls do not like lugging those photo cards around. It was one of those “not it!” situations. Whoever calls it last has to carry the box. AND the Sharpies.

Aimee made sure everyone had a buddy to walk out with, and then we left. Did I mention that she got me free parking? Free VIP parking? And she gave me an autographed team photo. FRAMED. Just between you and me, I’m starting to feel like I’m kind of a big deal.

I have to tell you, I like those ChivaPeeps. For only the second time in history, I am adding an entire team to my List of People who Rock. The are fun gals, and they rock individually as well as collectively. Perhaps next time I shall bake them a ChivaCake.

So that’s my story. I had a good time, and Aimee – an obvious glutton for punishment – invited me back for a couple other things in the not-too-distant future. I could tell you more…but I won’t. Mwahahahahahahaha.

I will leave you with this thought: If you are a girl (more specifically – a cool girl), and you can dance, and you’re in good shape, you really ought to tryout out for this team. Why wouldn’t you?

By the way, I did mention that there are loads of photos right here, didn't I?

Labels: ,