It seems like there are usually several "game of the season" games each year, and if we look back at 2014, sure, a couple of candidates pop out. The other games against the Galaxy, the U.S. Open Cup game, games early on where it looked like the team could keep a good run going or restart a solid patch.
But with this team essentially out of the MLS Cup playoff picture, meaning they'll miss the postseason for the fifth straight season (barring a miracle finish, of course...must include the unlikely caveat) there honestly aren't any big games ahead in 2014 beyond Sunday's. There are marks to set (Erick Torres is tantalizingly close to breaking the team's single-season scoring record, three more points to surpass 2013's horrible mark), but for the most part, the team will be playing for pride, for their futures, and to finish the string of games.
There's a part of me that doesn't want to really hype this game up. Seems weird, right? It must be if you aren't a fan of Chivas USA. By all rights, this is the last hurrah for the team as currently constructed, no bigger game ahead, no more chances to get one over on the Galaxy.
But that's because the Galaxy are going to be heavy favorites in this game, again. And why shouldn't they be, when they've completely dominated the all-time series vs. CUSA, and have taken points in every game but one since 2009?
The final Clasico Angelino in 2012 was honestly one of the most heartbreaking moments for me, ever, as a sports fan. The Goats and the Galaxy were both in the playoff hunt, and with a win, Chivas could have really improved their prospects while simultaneously helping to bury their opponents. What happened? CUSA were blown away 4-0. Heading into that game off a win, they never won again that season and lost 9 of their final 13 games, not including that result.
So even with the fact that Chivas USA unequivocally calls the Galaxy their biggest rivals, there's an ambiguity in drawing attention to it, in showing you care about it, because chances are there's just going to be another loss at the end of the anticipation.
And given the complete lack of continuity at the club, with only one player on the roster even being with this team back in 2011 and only four even participating in the 2012 season, the real passion to grab a win in this rivalry has basically died out. I'm sure players think, "Hey, I'd like to beat the guys whose locker room is down the hall," but they may just as likely think, "It's just another game - what's the big deal?"
The club has really been promoting what they are billing as "The Last SuperClasico" quite well this week, and frankly, they should be looking back at the history of this club, such as it is, and drafting in former players to recall what happened in the past far more often. History may be ignored, rejected once the rebrand of this club goes down, but it can't ever be completely erased. Just as there will be a desire to remember the good times of Chivas USA, there will be also be a reasonable effort to look ahead to what one prays will be better times.
If Chivas can somehow get up for this game, get a win against a Galaxy team that is absolutely flying, they will have ended 2014 on a positive note. Even if they lost the rest of their games, while we'd complain and critique (well within our rights, it must be said, for sticking with this team to this point) grabbing a win over the Galaxy would be a treasured memory. Would it mean as much as winning silverware? No. But for a regular season game, I promise you, there isn't a game as important as this one in MLS.
I don't care if it ended 1-0 or 6-0 or 6-5, if the Goats got the win. I don't care if it was the ugliest game of soccer ever played, if the Galaxy complained to the end of days about the quality on display, if there's a disputed call that decides the match in Chivas' favor.
This is basically the last truly meaningful game Chivas USA will ever play. If it ends with fans clad in red-and-white trudging out of the stadium with their heads down, with players quietly walking into the tunnel with eyes glazed over, with the rest of the league saying, self-satisfied, "Chivas USA, what a joke," it's going to be agonizing. It may be inevitable. The bad juju may have to continue through this game, regardless of its import.
I'm going to protect myself in the coming days. I'm not going to think about how great a win will be. I'm not going to expect a win. I'm going to hope for a better outcome, but know the sad feeling that crops up in the pit of my stomach when CUSA lose to the Galaxy is probably right around the corner.
Don't look at the standings, don't look at the holes in the lineup. Chivas USA, can you deliver a final signature win?
What do you think? Leave a comment below!