Chivas USA picked a terrible year to be bad.
Sure, they didn't choose to be bad, although quite a few folks predicted the plans the Goats had coming into the 2013 season were doomed to fail, and they did.
And they can be "comforted" by the fact that there are two other teams, Toronto FC and D.C. United, who were worse than them in the regular season (although TFC could still finish better than Chivas, since both clubs are level on points and games played right now).
But 2013 has been the most wide open in years, possibly ever in MLS history, when it comes to the playoff race. Officially, only four teams are out, with FC Dallas joining the three bottom-dwellers, and it looks like the Columbus Crew are most likely the next team to be crossed out.
Consider that fact for a second: in the final month of the regular season, 16 of 19 teams were still in the playoff hunt. Eight points separate first place from seventh in the Eastern Conference; at the moment, just seven points separate first from seventh in the West. That means that four teams who were well in contention will miss out on playing for the MLS Cup altogether.
Of course, more than 50 percent of the teams in the league, 10, make the postseason, but still. For a league that is sometimes maligned by soccer fans used to how it's done in Europe the ability of MLS to keep excitement in the regular season all the way to the end is impressive. The league is known for its attempts at parity, but this is the result of such an objective -- nearly all the teams are in the thick of it to the very end.
All of that brings us back to Chivas USA. They missed the mark so badly in 2013 that all of the old questions about the sustainability of the club remain (and in many respects have gotten stronger). They have shipped out most, possibly all, of their MLS SuperDraft picks for the next two years. They gave 17 players their MLS debuts this season, and with the colossal roster turnover before, during, and surely after the season, continuity, one of the biggest causes of MLS success, will continue to elude the club.
Of course, merely keeping the roster as it stands now won't lead to an MLS Cup contender in 2014. There are plenty of holes that desperately need to be addressed in the offseason. But if the front office is dumped again, if Jose Luis Real doesn't stick around and if his replacement at head coach is ill-equipped to deal with the realities of MLS, and if there is anywhere close to as much roster turnover next year, forget it. And who knows if the parity will be as apparent next year. Given what we've seen this year, Chivas USA had a golden opportunity to really make their way to a playoff berth for the first time since 2009, but once again, the team and the suffering fans must wait 'til next year...at least.
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