What I remember most is the hugs.
October 26, 2014 was the last day I was a supporter at a game. I did do "journalist things" that day, but I was working on behalf of this site, so I had more freedom to do what I liked on the day, the last one of my old club's existence.
By a fortunate quirk of the scheduling gods, Chivas USA's final game was at home, and they were hosting the San Jose Earthquakes, who by another stroke of luck were not good by the end of the season. More than pretty much any games over the past few years, I felt like they had a real chance to get a win to close out their history.
But on the day, the game was to some extent beside the point.
It was like that feeling you get when everybody's graduating from high school. You all kind of know you'll never be in the same place together ever again, and the profundity of that fact makes everything a bit more meaningful.
It was an afternoon game. I arrived at the stadium, and went to see the Black Army 1850 supporters group tailgate first. There were a lot of hugs, some discussion about the future, and kind words all around. The vibe among the BA was laid back, taking in the news whenever it would come down, and maybe preserving their energy a bit for the final game that was to come.
From there, I went over the Union Ultras' supporters group tailgate. The energy level was very different. Video crews buzzed around, interviewing members, and the noise level was much higher.
I went into the stadium, and entered the press box. There were hugs and handshakes there, and there were more reporters there than the typical CUSA game because of the occasion. The energy level there was kind of excited, since we all figured there would be plenty of stories from that day, no matter what happened.
That's something that should be remembered about that final day. On gameday, Sunday, no official word had come down about the future of Chivas USA. The reports, from reputable writers, were that the club was going away in some capacity, but nothing was official. On that final day, there were hopes among supporters that there would be some kind of 11th hour reprieve, but by the time I started talking to some of the staff, it seemed pretty well set that the team was disappearing. But it was a weird air on that day, since we weren't certain what was to happen.
For the first half, I watched the game from the press box. I saw the SGs out on the field cheering the players when they came out for the national anthem, a terrific touch that was a nice subtle thank you from the organization. I saw Erick Torres make a great dribble into the box, hit a tight shot, and after it was saved, Felix Borja came in and cleaned up the rebound with the final goal in Goats' history.
It all kind of worked out how it needed to from there, for the team and for me personally. For the second half, I sat in the supporters' sections, for the first time since I was the nerd with my laptop writing at Chivas USA's preseason game in San Diego against Xolos in 2012. I spent half of that final half clapping and cheering and chanting with the Union Ultras, then moved to the Black Army's section and did likewise with them. I lifted the scarf the BA was so kind to give me before the game overhead, and I chanted "Thank you Chivas!" in the game's dying moments. It was emotional.
The second half of the game was boring, but that was ok. Chivas were holding onto a lead, and as long as they saw it out, everybody could have sat down and not touched the ball for 45 minutes, and I think the Chivas supporters would have been ok with it.
Throughout all of this, there were hugs with supporters, whispered good wishes, smiles and back-pats.
From there, I went down to the postgame press conference and into the locker room for the final time. Wilmer Cabrera was as relaxed as I ever saw him in a presser, at one point flat-out saying his time in charge of CUSA was a tryout for whatever his next job would be. He pretty much made it clear there was no chance the team was coming back.
The locker room was pretty relaxed as well, as it often was after a win. Players were all quick to say they didn't know what was going to happen after that day when asked about the future, but they also looked around one final time. Clearly, some of the players walked out of their final shower and never looked back, but there were also kind words from players over their experience on the team, even if the time was never stable.
No player hugs came with reporters, of course, but Dan Kennedy made a point to shake everyone's hand from the scrum around him after the game.
The next day, official word came down: it was over. Chivas USA was completely dead. Those who had jobs were out of them. Players with the team were either free agents or would be allocated throughout the league for 2015.
There was also the immediate announcement that something big was coming up later in the week. We found out a few days later that was LAFC, a new team in Los Angeles projected to enter MLS play in 2017.
I've noted before, and surely will again in the future, that LAFC could represent everything that Chivas USA never proved to be. For soccer fans in Southern California, that's the expectation, anyway.
MLS begins play today, coincidentally with the other, still existent LA team taking the field. We will turn to LAFC as 2017 gets closer and news starts to come out about the club. I will remain a soccer neutral in the meantime. But the sense of community, of a shared experience, even if continually under siege and shrinking all the time from a myriad of problems, is something I cherished, and won't soon forget. It's what being a supporter is all about, ultimately.
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