Say it with me now: Nobody believes in us!
To be a fan of Chivas USA is always to have a place in one's heart for the underdog. We've all heard the chorus of reasons why Chivas is a "failed" club, and the reasons not to like it. But Chivas fans are a hardy bunch, and for our continued support, we've been rewarded by a great run in the U.S. Open Cup this year. With the semifinal nearly upon us, it's time to think about how the narrative heading into tomorrow's match changes substantially.
In their three wins in the Open Cup to this point, Chivas have played three lower league teams. Although they were guaranteed to play a lower level team in their first match, which was ultimately against the Ventura County Fusion, the subsequent two games could have been played against MLS opposition if the results had come out differently. For the fourth round, Chivas were set to play the LA Galaxy, but the NASL's Carolina RailHawks defeated the Goats' rivals. In the quarterfinal round, Chivas could have either faced FC Dallas or the Houston Dynamo, but both clubs were knocked out in the third round by lower level opposition, and the Goats ultimately faced off against the Charlotte Eagles.As a result, Chivas are the only semifinalist in this year's tournament that has yet to face another MLS club. On one hand, that leads to claims of illegitimacy, as Chivas haven't had to beat a peer to this point. That is not entirely fair, however. As this is a bracketed knockout tournament, Chivas were only able to beat the teams that were in front of them. They can't be held responsible for fellow MLS clubs failing to advance past lower league opposition. Still, there could be a grain of truth to the accusation, if Chivas get crushed by Seattle in the semis.
Ultimately, the narrative for the semifinal match shifts considerably. In Chivas' first three matches of the tournament, they were favored. Although they haven't put in a dominant scoreline in any of those matches (which has contributed to the feelings that Chivas have little shot Wednesday), they prevailed and did what they needed to advance. One of the trends of the last couple of months in Chivatown is that this team does not play beautiful soccer, but they've gotten the job done more often than not in the results department. It may not be convincing to outsiders, but it's been largely effective.
Even so, Chivas are very much the underdog against the Sounders. Not only is Seattle their first MLS opposition in the tournament, but the Sounders are the reigning kings of the tournament, having won it three straight years. They take the Open Cup seriously, but there is a sense of inevitability surrounding the semifinal that they will win it in a walk. Would they have that attitude against any opponent? Perhaps, but I get the sense that Chivas are being especially discounted in this situation. Hence the attitude that nobody believes in us.
Ultimately, Chivas need to put their money where their mouths are and perform well. I think they have a chance to beat Seattle, but it won't be easy. Even if they lose, if they play the game close and end up coming up a bit short, it could help improve perceptions about the team. But if Chivas really want to change minds, they'll need to do something that no team has done since the Charleston Battery in 2008 and beat Seattle in the Open Cup. Then people outside of Chivatown will start believing.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!