San Jose is home at last

I hate the San Jose Earthquakes.  I hated them before they were the San Jose Earthquakes.

....but I love hating them.  I will always love hating them.  And I'm thrilled that I will always get to hate them.

As a Galaxy fan - I guess I should have led with that, probably wouldn't have made much sense for a Kilmarnock supporter to hate San Jose - the Earthquakes have given me so many great and terrible moments.  Just that one franchise has given us soaring joys and crushing disappointments. 

Even Clash-Galaxy, now a half-forgotten haze of terrible jerseys, featured LA knocking San Jose out of the playoffs more often than not.  The two teams started very differently, and the canyon grew wider and deeper.  The Galaxy went from the majestic, cavernous Rose Bowl to its own self-styled cathedral, while the Clash and Earthquakes fought, ultimately in vain, the escape the madness of Spartan Stadium.  The Galaxy ran from the NASL history in Los Angeles with both legs; the Clash were the first MLS team to break the taboo of referencing the past.  The Galaxy kept Cobi Jones for twelve years; Eric Wynalda predictably stormed off after four (while suffering an injury on loan that effectively ended his career).  Troy Dayak was the face of the San Jose franchise; as the Galaxy stole Carlos Hermosillo away from a furious Peter Bridgewater. 

Then came the name change, and the trading of MLS Cups.  San Jose got the better of the exchange - first beating LA in 2001, then winning in 2003 at the Galaxy's shiny new home. 

But Earthquake fans were never allowed to enjoy their triumphs.  The 2001 title was nearly overshadowed by how close the team came to being folded alongside Tampa Bay.  And, to be honest, the title was overshadowed by the somber mood of the country that fall.

An even more amazing team in 2003 knocked out their arch-enemy - and the Galaxy led by Carlos Ruiz made a wonderfully hateful enemy indeed - in one of the greatest comebacks in world soccer history.  The Soccer Silicon Valley Community Foundation would like one day to see a movie about it.  I would sooner watch myself bleed to death. Fortunately, I was there for the original event, a memory I would cheerfully submit to having removed via hammer.  The after-party, an upset of the Chicago Fire, was held in Carson. 

And then, mere weeks later, the rumors of relocation broke through again.  This time, the rumors were true.  Caretaker owner AEG and caretaker GM Alexi Lalas took two seasons, highlighted mostly by an extended flirtation with someone named Tony Amanpour:

“My whole offering was contingent on a new stadium. I couldn’t risk $2.5 million of [my investors’] money.”

In 2005, Landon Donovan returned to MLS...but asked to return to, from his erstwhile fans' point of view, the very worst team possible.  The Earthquakes proved they didn't need him, and won the Supporters Shield.  Then they were eliminated in the first round by, of course, Donovan's Galaxy, who, of course, went on to win MLS Cup.  The Quakes moved to Houston and, of course, won the next two MLS Cups.

With the possible - possible - exception of the Red Bulls, it's hard to imagine a fan base hitting a lower point.

The Galaxy, meanwhile, had a new rival foisted upon them - a clown college called Chivas USA, whose major contribution to North American soccer was a dress rehearsal for owner Jorge Vergara's slow-motion destruction of the Guadalajara parent club.  Chivas USA lasted ten seasons, having outstayed its welcome by approximately eleven.  It is survived today by a bad Twitter account.  The Galaxy also signed an English player whose name escapes me, and as a result, pretended to transcend mere rivalries in a bid to concentrate all American soccer hate in one small Los Angeles suburb. 

San Jose made its glorious return to MLS in 2008 - upstaged, perhaps by Toronto FC, Beckham and Cascadia, but then, that's appropriate enough, too.  They managed to find an even tinier stadium than Spartan Stadium, and - painfully slowly - rebuilt their team around castoffs such as Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon, and Steven Lenhart. 

Finally, this weekend, a permanent home.  Airport West - I guess we're going to call it Avaya Stadium, because economic reality is economic reality - was constructed with no public money.  And while you can't really experience a stadium from the couch...it looks like a lot of fun.  The outdoor bar is a gimmick, but a good gimmick.  The designers realized that field level seats are fairly worthless, so the closest seats are set a story above the playing surface.  It looks great.

It's smaller than what I guess we're now calling Stubhub Center, which is also appropriate.  Earthquake fans will love the place like no other, and I couldn't be happier for them.  They've been through so much misery over the years.  Here's to many, many years more.