Chivas USA have had their share of critics in 2012.
For most of the criticism, the last-place club could do little to dispute the negativity. After all, they had just seven wins entering Sunday’s season finale against FC Dallas, had scored the fewest goals in the league and wrapped up last place in the Western Conference with a week to spare.
But there was one piece of criticism that Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser felt was unwarranted. And his team proved as much at FC Dallas Stadium.
Down two goals in second-half stoppage time, the Goats got goals from Laurent Courtois and Juan Agudelo as they salvaged a 2-2 draw in their final regular-season match.
Chivas had, in fact, never quit. Not on the season. Not on the coaching staff. Not on themselves. And Fraser finally had proof of that.
“There have been people who said that the team quit and I’d been saying all along that they hadn’t quit, that they continued to fight,” Fraser told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “They’ve taken knocks in their confidence, they’ve had moments of disbelief ... but they didn’t quit. They fought right down to the last second of the season.”
The ghosts of 2012 may haunt this collection of players and coaches for some time, and some of those phantoms were quite visible throughout the match. Chivas again played well early on but had nothing to show for their efforts.
The pair of late goals though helped the club feel positive about themselves and their effort.
“We needed this result to take some pleasure out of it,” Fraser said. “If you look at how we played, the first half, I thought we were very good, very dangerous, we had them on the ropes. We didn’t finish our chances and didn’t reward ourselves for the great work we were doing in the first half.”
Chivas had little to play for on Sunday. Neither a resounding victory nor a demoralizing defeat would have changed the story on the season. Fraser is part of the tale, himself having been rumored to be out of a job with a replacement already waiting in the wings.
And when FC Dallas scored two goals midway through the second half, perhaps it would have been easy to fold up the tent and chalk up Sunday to more of the same.
But that has never been the mantra on the season, despite the terrible results that piled up, one on top of the other.
“I’m really proud of the effort,” Fraser said. “I’m really proud of the fact that they really hadn’t quit, that they really hadn’t quit.”
If there is anything disappointing in Saturday's result, it may have been that such a comeback came in the 34th of 34 regular-season games, that Los Rojiblancos scored way too late to build on it or take anything long-term from it.
But when there has been a drought as bad as Chivas have suffered through, any bit of moisture on any day is a positive.
“There are many things about this season we’ll feel disappointed about,” Fraser said, “but by the same token when you see good things, you certainly feel good about them as well.”
Luis Bueno covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.