A newspaper reporter joins Chivas USA’s Black Army

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Daily Breeze reporter Sandy Mazza had never seen an MLS game in person.

So what better place to start than Saturday’s Chivas USA-Galaxy SuperClasico. Given the result, she may well have a standing invitation to sit in the stands with Chivas USA fans at every derby.

Here’s her report:

Justin Davies drove from Las Vegas to cheer on Chivas USA Saturday night in Carson with his cousin, Josef Zacher.

The pair viciously booed Galaxy fans and chanted “We believe we can win!” as they stood through the 90-minute game with a contingent of supporters in section 138 of the Home Depot Center.

But, when their beloved team actually won, Davies and other members of Black Army 1850 – a Chivas USA support group – might have been as astonished as they were thrilled. I guess 12 straight losses in five years can’t kill your faith and passion for a thing but it can make you doubt victory. Such is the brutal face of reality and history.

Saturday’s SuperClassico was the first Major League Soccer game I’ve attended, at the invitation of my coworker Nick Green, who is always entertained by my lack of knowledge about such important subjects as soccer and Monty Python films. He was lucky enough to not have me barraging him with stupid questions all night in the press box because I was sitting (actually, standing) with Black Army 1850.

The group is a motley crew that separated two years ago from the larger, more established Chivas USA supporter group Union Ultras.

Black Army 1850 President Angel Mendoza said it was formed to be more tolerant of people from various backgrounds, and less tolerant of anything non-Chivas USA. Black is their chosen color because it is both “intimidating and rad,” he said. The army reference is intended to connote their undivided devotion, and 1850 refers to the year Los Angeles was incorporated.

“We’re not Mexican, we’re L.A.,” Mendoza explained. “We’re a melting pot.”

In the stands with the black-clad supporters, there was no time for ignorant girly queries about the meaning of yellow flags, red cards and neon-colored shoes. There was only raw emotion.

And Cerritos College graphic arts major Brian Deres wore his heart on his sleeve. He donned a bushy wig and red-and-white face paint for the game.

“We’re here to support them until they win,” he said during halftime. “We’re like a family, it doesn’t matter (if they win or lose) we’re all together.”

But did Deres really expect Chivas USA to pull out a victory against a team that has spanked them repeatedly and brutally since 2007?

Maybe.

Whatever their fears and uncertainty, the fans put on a brave face as they sang: “Tonight Chivas we’ll set the goal on fire. It’ll burn brighter than the sun. Lalalalala.” And: “Come on Chivas score a goal it’s really (naughty word) simple. Put the ball into the net and we’ll go
(naughty word) mental.”

Seventy-two minutes of running, kicking and head bunting passed before the amazing and shocking moment came when Jose Erick Correa scored a penalty kick goal and the only point of the evening. For all the hoping and screaming and waiting, the goal was a huge payoff for fans – prompting at least one to rip off his shirt and cry in ecstasy. The mirth transformed into disbelief as fans held their breath for the next 18 minutes (plus another agonizing four minutesadded to the clock for stoppages). Could they really pull it off?

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Chivas USA fan and Hawthorne police Sgt. Chris Cognac cheered with his wife, Martha, and two sons.

His youngest, Gabe, spent a good portion of the game trying to telepathically distract the Galaxy’s goalkeeper. I believe his rationale was that, if Chivas USA wasn’t going to bring home a victory, Gabe Cognac would have to step in. He waved a pair of colorful sunglasses, twisted a Black Army 1850 sash around his head and made catcalls at the goalee. Who’s to say it didn’t work

Chris Cognac said he takes pride in supporting a team that has won so few games in recent history. It’s easy to cheer on the top dog but it takes real heart to stay faithful to a repeated loser.

For cousins Davies and Zacher, loyalty was a very personal vocation.

Zacher’s father was a devoted member of Union Ultras and a “die-hard Chivas fan” before he died after suffering an aneurism.

Chivas USA rewarded him during his hospitalization with flowers and bedside visits from players. The team sent flowers to his funeral.

So it was only natural to Davies that he drove drove from Las Vegas for the showdown against Galaxy to cheer Chivas USA.

“They were there for my family,” he said.

When the clock finally stopped on Saturday night just before 10 p.m. and fans realized victory was really, truly theirs, they hugged and cheered. One hero of the evening was Chivas USA goalee Dan Kennedy, who thwarted numerous Galaxy-hit balls from the end zone. He stopped by section 138 for some enthusiastic high-fives from Black Army 1850
after the game.

My feet ached, my voice was hoarse and I was exhausted. But I was happy — mostly because I had accidentally sat with fans of the winning team who had so long suffered the pain of defeat. I was relieved they could go home satisfied that their dedication and faith in Chivas USA had paid off.

The future looked a little brighter for fans like John Santos.

“There’s a lot of good feelings. The last time Chivas beat the Galaxy was five years ago.

Does it mean the rivalry’s shifting?

“No, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Santos said. “It’s an explosion of emotion. I’m just really happy.”

For another fan, who declined to give his name, victory was more black-and-white: “It’s beautiful. It feels good to beat those bastards.”

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