First, our questions for them...
1. So, uh, turnover. There's been a lot of it with Chivas USA this year. Who should I be looking out for Sunday?
I might be wrong, but for the time in history, you can actually make a direct comparison between construction of a soccer team with the enforced "slum clearances" of pre-Thatcherite Britain. Urban decay rendered much of Manchester uninhabitable. So families were relocated, their homes demolished. In the end, through a combination of poor planning, atrocious design flaws, low grade materials and haste served only to create the same, uninhabitable slums.
I realize urban planning isn't the rage among MLS fans but the metaphor works. We blew it all up and had some early success but in the end, it was bad, if not worse than before.
We're on our third coach this season, Jose Luis Real. He's been fairly consistent this but don't expect to see two many of the same Chivas players when our teams last met. Not counting Dan Kennedy, Jorge Villafana holds the dubious distinction of being the only current Chivas USA player making ten appearances for the 2012 and 2013 sides.
The lineup under Real has been fairly consistent. The backline is anchored by Mario de Luna and Carlos Bocanegra though Boca is still acclimating to the league. He also has some nagging injuries to overcome, as his being listed as out on Tuesday's MLS IR would indicate. Despite being listed as out Bocanegra did play the whole entire fixture against Dallas.
On the wings newcomer Bryan de la Fuenta and Eric Avilla each bring some pace on the wings. In the center rookie Carlos Alvarez has played well in both attacking and holding midfield roles.
Erick "Cubo" Torres is the reigning player on the month. Torres is a striker on loan from CD Guadlajara. He's generally put in as the sole striker up top. At 5'11 he does get occasionally get his head on balls, but generally he's going to use his speed and technical skills to try to trap and score with a long ball.
2. There's less than 10 games left this season and I think it's fair to say it's another lost season for the Goats (sorry). Where does the team go from here? Where do they have to go?
That's the million dollar question isn't it? In my mind, I believe that this is the end; after 2013 Chivas will either be liquidated or relocated. Yet after saying all that, if they continue playing into 2014, I'd be mildly surprised, but not stunned.
If there were NFL or NBA team, we wouldn't even be asking this question because we'd already know.
That's just the nature of MLS. When Tampa Bay and Miami folded, no one knew that was coming at all. It's the allocation order. Chivas USA trades down in the allocation order yet still got Carlos Bocanegra.
When Don Garber lays out his requirements for new MLS entrants they have to have a stadium. Chivas, technically doesn't considering they play in someone else's stadium. They don't have a tv deal.
The MLS suits--Garber, Mark Abbott, etc.--are smart people. They know what's going with Vergara is hurting the league. I don't revel in questioning their integrity, but at what can they say this gotten out of the hand?
In the same timeframe that Robbie Rogers came back to the pitch, the team in the same market got hit with a discrimination lawsuit.
Garber has repeatedly pointed that he can't discuss ongoing litigation. So finally there's this: Chivas USA is last in attendance in both 2102 and 2013. In fact, the 2013 figures show attendance has dived 33%. Only a scant 8,760 fans showing up on game day. We that attendance figures are always inflated. But the fact remains that somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% of the seats are empty.
We try very hard to be positive but at times its like reasoning with the Black Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail.
"I cut your arm off"
"No, you didn't"
"'Tis a flesh wound!"
3. Chivas' 2013 campaign has seen lawsuits, accusations of xenophobia, severe attendance declines, the aforementioned roster churn, etc. I don't know if you can put it into words, but I'm going to ask you to do it anyway: What's it been like being a Chivas USA fan this year?
It takes a special person to be a Chivas fan. Usually it's the losing and second-class citizenship that drives people now. With everything that's going on now? A description I found apt is soccer meeting Camus while downing Jagerbombs and standing on your head watching a David Lynch marathon.
I've lived all over the country and I've met so many incredible MLS supporters. The Chivas fans, and their supporter groups: The Black Army and the Union Ultras are just genuinely good people.
They're not your typical LA fan who arrives at the third inning, leave at the sixth. I'll name drop here: Bruce McGuire, aka Du Nord, said on his podcast that he hasn't met an uncool Chivas USA fan. I think he's exactly right.
Just walk up to an SG tailgate and someone will just hand you the most delicious taco that you'll have ever tasted. You ask "How much do I owe you?" and they just laugh and say "You're part of the family now." I'm in the midst of a very painful divorce and Chivas supporters who I've only met a couple time are texting me and tweeting really incredibly supporting messages like, "hey thinking of you man." It warms my heart so much.
For a humorous take of Chivas USA fan culture, I recommend checking out the "What the Flock" podcast. Besides being a very handsome individual and wonderful father, ELAC manages that delicate balance of utter evisceration from the previous match mixed in with some cautious optimism for what lays ahead.
There's been a gradual swing from optimistic, we love our team to a general anger and frustration. And it's not frustration necessary to the team's play or it's form but just the disdain that Vergara has for the fans and his behavior. His passion for Chivas USA is question as he's seldom, if ever, at matches.
But our fans are not only passionate but very resourceful. After Chivas begun confiscating signs critical of management and/or Vergara, a grassroots campaign formed on Reddit and raised funds to fly digital banner during halftime of Chivas/Galaxy match with the scrolling message of "FUERA VERGARA! #VERGARAOUT."
Hey, if we couldn't laugh, we'd cry.
Bonus Question: Hypothetical situation: You just won Powerball or something and have hundreds upon millions of dollars -- not quite all the money in the world, but a lot of it, enough to make a significant investment -- and you decide to buy Chivas USA. What do you do?
This is a fantastic question. Before answering, I want to say how much I've enjoyed being part of the Goat Parade. It's been fun. When you're coming after me bearing torches and pitchforks, please do try to remember the good times.
I don't even know why people continue to poll this question, but we're always hearing about 80% of the country disapproves of the job Congress and the other 20% didn't understand the question. But come election time, it's those same incumbents that get re-elected. Because in the end, everyone Rep is great, she's just being thwarted by those other idiots who also got re-elected.
The analogy being, we all see, to put it charitably, ways in Chivas USA can improve. That may be about as we can all agree on. But I'll give it shot!
First things first, an epic rebranding must take place. The name Chivas USA just has to go. I admire the fact that a handful of MLS teams have retained their name from the NASL era.
The LA Aztecs played in the NASL and even world-class players like George Best and Johan Cruyff, however short his tenure. However, it has been suggested that the name might be offensive to some. In my Chivas USA, we initially be a major charm offensive actively not try to offend anyone. At least not at first.
So new name, new colors and a new location. Yes, the teams has to be out of shadow of the Galaxy. But unless you're bankrolled by the New York Yankees and an OPAC nation, a stadium is pretty much a requirement.
By new location, I talking in general specificity of Southern California, no further than Pasadena, but north in San Diego.
From there it would immersing the team, the staff into the community. Hitting up Rotary meetings. Kissing babies. Mowing elderly persons yards, getting kittens out of tree, supporting local lemonade stand initiatives.
That might disingenuous but the Galaxy are really involved in these matters. I've been in two different AYSO leagues and both have given away Galaxy trinkets, discounted tickets, practices with players. I even got to meet Clint Mathis at a Galaxy camp he ran and ... I acted like the worst fanboy ever but I digress.
I'll stop on this: Eric Wynalda is the man I want coaching my team. He is outspoken. He is passionate. He is loyal. MLS has got this attitude of "We're so happy we have soccer, don't rock the boat." I think the league needs more boat rockers and vocal ones at that. Vergra is boat rocker in his own but really he's another obfuscated brick in the MLS labyrinth.
I do have one last thing: I will personally divuldge the terms of every single transaction. When we radically overpay for the next Lothar Mattheus I will at podium, saying "Per league policy I can't discuss the terms but ... he's getting a $70 a week, we're comping his meals on travel, if get five goals we'll cover his dry cleaning bill, and if we make the playoffs, we'll pick up an extra bag of oranges from Fresh and Easy."
I don't foresee my reign lasting very long.
Now their questions for us...
1. After showing Hans Backe the door, the general impression was the team was looking for a big name. I personally loved the hiring of Mike Petke. I also a big fan of Robin Fraser. Fraser of course being the Chivas USA coach for the last two season.
The seasons winding down and currently the Red Bulls are right there in thick of things? What's your opinion of the coaching and how well they have performed this year?
Over here, we were thrilled with the hires. Mike Petke is the team's all-time leader in minutes and yellow cards. Robin Fraser has actually played in MLS. John Wolyniec, the team's reserves coach, was known as the Staten Island Ronaldo.
As for performance, they've been great. Hans Backe never seemed to motivate the team. They'd come out flat and only after giving up a goal or two would they really play. Backe never quite liked subs, either and squad rotation was rare, and when it did happen, the decisions were strange.
So Pekte was a breath of fresh air. The team speaks highly of his passion for the team and it's evident in his post-game pressers; when they lose, you can tell he's hurting. He's imbued the team with the grit he himself played with, giving the team a never-say-die identity the team was lacking.
But not everything has been great. His subs are formulaic (Oh, look, it's the 60th minute, here comes Lloyd Sam) and he seems hesitant to make changes when things get stale.
All in all, it's been a good debut season for Petke. After all, he is a rookie head coach, so there are going to be kinks, but under the tutelage of Andy Roxburgh he should be able to work them out.
2. The West coast has been pretty harsh to the Red Bulls where you've gotten a single point in three games (Portland, San Jose and, strictly not a coastal state, Colorado). Granted the first two of those matches were the beginning of the season, any reason why the road and, in particular the west coast, has posed so many problems for the Red Bulls?
Portland and San Jose were the first two weeks of the season and, for some reason, the team decided to fly back from Portland only to hop on another cross-country flight back to San Jose a few days later. Then, Roy Miller happened. Then, there were some delays on getting out there.
As for Colorado, the Red Bulls losing on July 4 to the Rapids is as American as fireworks and apple pie.
Excuses aside -- and they're barely legitimate ones -- all three were winnable games. The Red Bulls were an awful road team under Backe and they still haven't fixed things under Petke, coast aside. Petke has vowed to make some changes ahead of Sunday's game, but we'll see if it's enough to right the ship away from Red Bull Arena.
3. Sounds likes Jamison Olave will not be making (the trip). We hope he has a quick recovery because he's played really well. With the turnover in the offseason, there's been a lot of new faces in the lineup. If you were to pick a "Newcomer of the Year Award" for a player (or for a couple players), who would you choose and why?
It's got to be Olave. Jonny Steele has played very, very well, too, and he earns an honorable mention, but Olave has been a rock on the back line.
Up until the signing of Ibrahim Sekagya, the Red Bulls were thin at the back and, frankly, if Olave wasn't there, they weren't winning. Markus Holgersson does a lot of good things at centerback, but when his lack of athleticism lets him down, Olave was there to clean up the mess. Plus, he's shown some offensive flair.
4. Sorry, a bonus question, couldn't help myself--what's the attitude in Harrison regarding NYFC? I'm sure a lot of opinions but Red Bulls fans thinking this in an unwelcome incursion by MLS or this sort of chip on the your should that can only improve your squad, i.e. "Great. Bring it on"
It all depends on who you ask. Some are jealous, for others, it's reaffirmed their infatuation with the Red Bulls, I've seen some who are questioning their allegiance. But overall, I think it's a mild disdain.
People are naturally disposed to dislike a cross-town rival, but Red Bulls fans don't seem as worried as you'd expect. Yeah, there was some initial hand-wringing, but the more that comes out on NYCFC, the more of a let down it seems.
Be it the divisive ownership, the prospect of playing soccer in a baseball stadium -- a novelty that just can't be tenable for an entire MLS season -- or the fact that they really haven't made that big a splash, I think fans are more apt to laugh at NYCFC than loathe them.
To be honest, NYCFC was supposed to be the smelling salts that wake up New Yorkers to their supposed innate love of soccer, but I just haven't seen the infatuation. Instead, NYCFC seems like it's going to have to try and force the more provincial New Yorkers to love them. Somehow.. Honestly, I think the Cosmos have made a bigger splash, and they're playing in the NASL.