Chivas USA played at "home" against the Portland Timbers last Wednesday. Announced attendance for the match was 3,702. The actual number was far lower, of course. According to SoccerAmerica, it was the smallest crowd for an MLS regular season match in the league's history, and the first game to crack the Top 10 of worst attendances since 2006.
From an inside perspective, there was never any doubt this game was not going to draw. Chivas USA's attendance has been abysmal, by far the worst in the league, and a continuation of a trend that has progressed for several years. I know the folks who work in the ticket office are hustling to bring people to games, but there simply hasn't been enough groundwork laid for anything but the attendance base to continually dwindle. Add in the mismanagement of the club and poor results of the team, and people figure paying for parking and tickets just isn't worth it, at least on a regular basis.
Of course, it was also a Wednesday night game, and those never draw well, for either LA team. But they also never draw as badly as we saw this week, either.
Was this game a tipping point in thinking about the future of Chivas USA?
If not, then what about Saturday's game against the Philadelphia Union? A better announced crowd for the game, at 5,231, though the stands were also very sparse again. Playing a poor Union side, Chivas were partially the victims of controversial/poor refereeing decisions, and mostly just bad, as they rolled over in a 3-0 loss. At home. Against a side whose fanbase is in active revolt against the team for being so bad.
Chivas USA are on pace to win five games this season. If they did indeed win five games, it would be their second-worst mark in club history. For all the talk that this year will be better, five wins isn't showing any growth, at least in immediate terms.
This is a lame duck year, as far as we understand it. There was always a chance spirits would sag, supporters would be torn about actively following the team, and the in-between status of the club would mean there wouldn't be enough forward movement in investing into the team and marketing of the club.
But if I'm being honest, although the team may not be actively digging a bigger hole as far as mismanagement, the lack of real change may be setting the club even further back. In other words, standing pat is basically the last thing this team needs right now, and it's showing.
There have been rumors, both publicized and ones I've heard behind the scenes, that the next owner of the club is already in place and the league is just waiting until after the World Cup to unveil the news. We're getting to a point that those who want to see this team do well better hope that's the case. If it turns out to be untrue, or if the league has real trouble finding a committed owner willing to spend on getting it right, there's a growing likelihood the team currently known as Chivas USA will be moved or folded. I have been disavowing that position since I started writing about the Goats, but the bad PR of a bad team with an ever-dwindling fanbase simply cannot be avoided.
Maybe I can't see the forest for the trees. In context, the two losses in the past week are part of the game, something every team goes through, and given what we've been told, it appears better times are ahead, and really not that far away from now. Maybe we just need to hold out a little longer.
By no means do I advocate a theoretical return to Jorge Vergara as owner. He never was going to figure out how to support Chivas USA properly, and he's not the solution here.
But time is of the essence here. I'm calling the tenuous hopes for the playoffs in 2014 over. It looks like it's going to be a difficult five months ahead on the field. Does that mean this club's darkest hour is already behind us, quickly approaching, or coming ahead?
What do you think? Leave a comment below!