Former Prodigy Chila Still a Force on LA’s Soccer Scene

Jose Salvador Montes de Oca Gonzalez (aka Chila) was spotted by Mexico legend Jorge Campos as a teenager, lined up against Ronaldinho in Liga MX and still harbors a dream of returning to the top via this year’s Open Cup with NISA’s LA Force.
By: Dennis Pope

He’s a man with a long name and an increasingly longer story.

Jose Salvador Montes de Oca Gonzalez, better known as Chila, caught the eye of Mexican national team legend Jorge Campos at the tender age of 13 and played against Brazil and Barcelona icon Ronaldinho in Liga MX when he was 18.

And he continues to grow a reputation in the Open Cup as a lethal goal-scorer for Southern California-based underdogs.

“I mean, it’s the dedication that I have,” said Chila, now a 28-year-old forward who recently signed with Los Angeles Force of the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA). “I still have a goal. I want to reach higher than where I’m at right now.”

“I want to become a pro at an MLS level or once again back in Mexico,” added the striker – still possessing one of the sharpest eyes for goal in the American lower leagues.

Chila and LA Force travel north to play first-year USL League One side Spokane Velocity in the Open Cup Second Round on Wednesday April 3rd at 7:30pm PT (STREAM LIVE on USopencup,com, and

Santa Ana to Mexico

There’s a timeline to how it all happened for the Santa Ana native and it’s true, he was scouted by MLS Cup, Mexican Primera, Open Cup and Concacaf Champions Cup winner Jorge Campos – who earned 129 caps for his native Mexico and played for El Tri in two World Cups and One Olympic Games.

It’s also true that much of Chila’s story is now firmly in the past.
Chila in action for Orange County FC in a 2023 Open Cup Qualifier

“I left [the U.S.] at 13 years old and started playing over in Mexico for a little bit,” Chila said. “I came back [to the U.S.] at 16 and school was not my thing so I told my parents I wanted to go again. I had the opportunity to go, to play for Leon [in Mexico’s top division] and I went back at 17.

At 18 I signed my first pro contract with the first team and the rest is history,” he said.

Playing in the first division with Leon gave Chila a lot of confidence. His time there included squaring off against 2005 Ballon d’Or and 2002 World Cup winner Ronaldinho. The Brazilian was playing out the autumn of a career in which he won, quite literally everything in Europe and South America, with Mexican side Queretaro in 2014.

Chila also finished runner-up in the Copa MX in 2015. But, while on a trajectory to bigger and better things in the game, responsibilities at home in California were calling.

“I came back because I had a lot of personal stuff back home,” said Chila, no longer the wispy, wiry teenager who faced one of the world’s best in Liga MX. “I was young. I didn’t have that mentality that I have now. My daughter was going to be born, so that’s why I came back.”

Mexico Back to Santa Ana

One of the top men’s amateur sides in Southern California during the 2010s, the Santa Ana-based La Maquina attracted top Mexican talent and reached a pinnacle in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup with a matchup against Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy.

Invited to play with La Maquina by a friend on the team, Chila – a known quantity by then in Southern California’s soccer scene, quickly found playing time with a club competing at a high level.

“La Maquina was a team that I knew because most of my friends played with them,” he said about those days. “My first U.S. Open Cup was when I came back from Mexico so I had to transfer my whole paperwork thing from the federations and all that stuff, but that’s when I scored my goal for Maquina.”

That goal came in a 4-1 loss to Fresno FC in the 2017 Open Cup. It remains, to this day, the club’s last in the tournament.

Moving Forward

Chila continued to play as an amateur, first for Orange County FC in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and then with Capo FC in NISA Nation – before connecting with FC Golden State Force, an LA Force affiliate team participating in NISA Nation, last fall.

“I’m just thankful that I have the chance to put the LA Force jersey on once again,” said Chila, who recently agreed to a contract with the professional third-division side who recently booked a place in the 2024 Open Cup Second Round.

“I’m on a one-year contract and hopefully things go good and I can re-sign and we’ll see what comes from there,” he said.

“My main focus right now is to take it practice-by-practice,” he said. “It starts off with our coach and our staff. It’s very professional and I feel like we’re going to have such an amazing season. I feel like any chance that I have [in front of goal], I’m going to put it away.”

Chila knew it was going to be a good day when the Force hosted Redlands FC (of USL League Two) in the First Round of this year’s Open Cup. He just had a feeling something positive was about to happen.

Force-Ful Match Winner

“I don’t know why but I had a feeling,” Chila said. “I was telling my guys on the bench and I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t know why but I feel like I’m going to grab one and just bang it in.’”

Entering the match as a substitute midway through the second half, with the score tangled at one and the game in need of a hero, the ball sat up just perfectly for Chila in the 83rd minute. It was one of those balls, as a goal-scorer, you just hope comes your way.

Chila Stalking the winning goal for LA Force against Redlands FC in this year’s First Round

“As soon as I saw it – we practice these types of plays – I knew once it came back to me that I had that in my bag because those are the balls that a forward dreams to have, at the six [yard line], a half-volley, a little bit off the bounce,” said Chila who, for all his ups and downs and backs and forths in the game, never lost his nose for the goal.

“I’m not going to lie, I do watch the video [of that goal] a couple of times a day,” he admitted with a sly smile.

And so the story of Chila continues.

Because no matter how long it takes, a dream delayed is so much better than a dream denied.

Dennis Pope writes about local sports for the SoCal Newspaper Group and serves in a communications role for both NISA Nation and the Southwest Premier League. Follow him at @DennisPope on X/Twitter.