Sept. 12, 2014, or the date of Brian Straus' revelation of the fate of the Goats, might not have been the day the music died, but it sure did feel like it.
Of course, the music might have not sounded like an established symphony, but it had its moments. At times it was cheerful and upbeat (think Preki's enjoyable tirades and that 2007 Western Conference championship), while at other times (i.e. most of the time) it had the same depressing yet optimistic feel as a Vicente Fernandez concert. The lack of its own proper auditorium, a revolving door of musicians playing second-hand instruments, and the lack of a proven conductor have always plagued Chivas USA, but something always kept the faithful lot of us dedicated and interested.
But now, the music is fading out. If anything, the final six games of the season emit the faint melodramatic sounds of Chopin's Funeral March.
With 2015 now in question, players may begin to shift their focus from trying to win games to essentially turning the final games into a tryout for next season. If they're not loaned out, chances are they want to make sure they're playing well enough to earn a spot on another team, whether it be via purchase or through the redraft. After years of essentially being Chivas de Guadalajara's farm team, CUSA is dangerously close to becoming MLS's development academy through the potential redistribution of its roster.
In any case, the incentive to carry on is there for the players.
CUSA fans, on the other hand, don't have that luxury.
They're now facing a variety of unknown situations:
- Chivas USA/LA2 continues 2015 as normal under new, but rushed owner
- Chivas USA/LA2 takes a 1-2 year hiatus allowing a new owner the time to build a proper foundation
- Chivas USA/LA2 ceases to exist.
I don't know about you, but option 1 is just as bad as option 3 and as a result, I'm all for taking the risk into oblivion.
Of course, we won't get any certainty until something is formally announced and even then, as has been the case for most of CUSA's existence, we'll have to believe it when we see it.
So maybe there's still hope, maybe the music hasn't died. But for the time being, there's still a whole lot to be concerned about.
How It's Come to This
In the past five seasons, CUSA has failed to amass more than eight wins in a season and haven't come close to contending for a playoff spot. Theoretically, they haven't had an owner present in their entire history (Vergara didn't care from more than 1,500 miles away). There have been 11 coaches in 10 years with an average tenure of 10.8 months per coach (Cabrera not included). There have been allegations of racist hiring practices. There's been that whole issue of filling seats. For a considerable amount of time, we've neglected the one aspect of the game that gives teams a boost over league parity - the Designated Player slot. They've had more than enough stints of non-existent TV contracts. They've never had a stadium of their own and have been in the degrading situation of paying rent and parking fees to their hated rival, the LA Galaxy.
All this and more, season after season for a little under 10 years. It takes a bad team of epic proportions to be that controversial in such a short span of time. Not even the notorious Donald Sterling or Al Davis have done as much havoc for their respective clubs in their decades of tenure.
As a result, you could make a very valid claim that Chivas USA was and continues to be the worst run club in the history of American sports. It's only natural that we're now facing our last few weeks of existence.
Avoiding a Hiatus Could Lead to More of the Same
The cheers that came when Vergara was bought out were those of relief and while the club regained some form of stability, it was only in the form of trying to find an owner. While there's a big difference in stabilizing a team to sell it as opposed to stabilizing with the intent to work on building a contender, the bottom line is that CUSA continues to struggle out of circumstance and 2015 would be more of the same. I can tolerate losing. What I can't tolerate is following a team for a season with absolutely no immediate plan and with absolutely no intent to become genuinely competitive.
A hiatus breaks the trend and potentially brings fans a future of hope with an LA2 team that will exist to win games and fill seats in the process, and will no longer be just a marketing tool to build an external brand. The idea of a hiatus with the positive restructuring of the team, gives us hope. Seeing the team continue on for 2015 only provides us with a reminder that the process will remain slow and, assuming an owner isn't found, doesn't give us any certainty of being around for 2016 and beyond. Even if an owner is found, the idea of a rushed rebrand and restructuring of the team doesn't exactly get me feeling confident things will be so different.
In other words, LA2 would be something that CUSA could never be - a legit football club with a legit self-serving purpose (what a concept!). That alone gives me enough excitement, hope, and patience to be without my beloved bottom-feeder for a year or two or three.
No more speculation, time for drastic action.
Addressing the Fans
Sure the hiatus isn't ideal and frankly, it's going to suck. But one of the biggest issues lies in the long-term effect of that comes with the complete divorce between CUSA and LA2.
You can sugarcoat it all you want, but the post-hiatus LA2 squad will not be a continuation of CUSA. This is a different scenario than San Jose resurrecting as the Earthquakes after the original Quakes left to Houston. The Earthquakes' name, color, and history stayed in San Jose and is rightfully, and proudly, theirs. Nothing about Chivas USA will continue, (that's the whole point behind the hiatus - to prepare and to cut all ties with the dysfunction) and as a result, anything we see in the future will be a completely different product independent of its past. There's something sad, yet comforting about that.
CUSA would be starting from scratch because it will be an entirely new franchise. This isn't about using a magic eraser on a pad that's been scribbled on for 10 years, but instead, the page will be completely torn out of the notebook and tossed in the garbage can. Everything we've grown used to in Goatland, will be nothing but a memory, and despite all the negativity and frustrations we've witnessed, it was still a special experience similar to recalling fond childhood memories of playing with broken toys.
There's something special about a group that has stuck together through these nearly 10 years of madness all the while refusing to jump ship to the league's favorite son next door. They've been the butt of jokes for years, but I challenge you to find a better, more dedicated, and passionate fan base. Strength in genuine spirit will always trump strength in numbers.
Of course this has nothing to do with the thoughts and feelings of current fans and lies solely on what MLS wants to do. I can assure you that if CUSA had a larger, more established fan base, the idea of a hiatus wouldn't have been as acceptable as it currently is with the current disenfranchised CUSA fan base. MLS has watched CUSA dig itself into a hole, all the while they were the one's holding a shovel, and never fully intervened until it was too late. They're now tearing down the same house they failed to make sure had a strong enough foundation and putting the fans' passions, storing them in the bin for an undetermined amount of time and saying "you'll be fine, just hold up a bit."
Was I passionate about this club? You bet. At the same time, the passion seemed to be unrequited and when you couple the complete lack of regard for the interests of fans like me, my passions almost felt forced and fruitless. It will be sad to see CUSA go, but the more I think about it, maybe it's for the best.
No, the hiatus is for the best. If you're gonna do it, do it right.
It's worth the risk.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!