There is no one-word description of how November went for 1904 FC. Still yet to sign their first player, the club finds itself in the midst of drama that could determine the future of the North American Soccer League. November saw three teams depart the NASL, two of which – FC Edmonton and recently crowned champions San Francisco Deltas – ceased operations entirely. The third team, North Carolina FC, will play next season in the United Soccer League, which was granted second-division status by US Soccer in October.
The decision by US Soccer to grant the USL second-division status, the status held by the NASL since its inception in 2009, began what is feared by many to be a death spiral for the league, which, even with the additions of 1904 FC and Orange County’s California United in the spring, will contain only seven teams. North Carolina was the first team to announce its departure from the NASL. “The move, which is effective immediately, ensures that NCFC will continue to play at the highest level possible in a league that has a proven relationship with Major League Soccer and has experienced impressive growth in North America,” the club said in the statement announcing the move on November 16th. North Carolina’s decision and statement demonstrates one silver lining for 1904 FC if the NASL does fold: the USL is on the rise and seems willing to continue expanding.
Heightening fears about the NASL’s future, long-time NASL club FC Edmonton announced on November 24th that it would not only be departing the NASL, but that it would be ceasing all professional operations. “Although we believed in and have supported the NASL business model, our franchise has proven to be unsustainable in the Edmonton market,” FC Edmonton owners Tom and Dave Fath said in their statement. “Our decision today is further reinforced by the continuous uncertainty being forced upon the NASL by the United States Soccer Federation.” Certainly, Demba Ba and the 1904 FC owners are not concerned about a receptive market, but Edmonton’s decision demonstrates the disruption caused by the dispute between the NASL and US Soccer.
The most shocking departure of November was that of the San Francisco Deltas, who announced the end of all soccer operations on November 24th, only twelve days after winning the NASL title in their inaugural season. In his statement, Deltas CEO Brian Andrés Helmick did not offer a specific reason for shuttering the team, instead praising the club’s fans for their spirit and dedication during the team’s season. The tale of the Deltas is the most frightening for 1904 FC fans. Despite a successful first season, both on and off the field, the team will not return for a second run. This is the biggest warning sign that the NASL may not make it to the end of the decade.
Despite unrest surrounding the status and future of the NASL, 1904 FC fans still had plenty to be thankful for in November. While the club has not signed a player yet, 1904 FC has three players to represent itself – club co-owners Eden Hazard, Moussa Sow, and Yohan Cabaye, all of whom found at least some form of success this past month.
Much to the delight of Chelsea and Belgium fans, Eden Hazard finally found his goal-scoring form in November, scoring twice in the Premier League, once in the Champions League, and once more in international play. Hazard’s two goals helped Chelsea beat West Bromwich Albion as the Blues picked up three wins and a tie in Premier League action last month, outscoring opponents 7-1. Hazard’s goal against Qarabag of Azerbaijan was one of four Chelsea scores in an easy win. During the mid-month international break, Hazard was the first one on the scoresheet in Belgium’s dramatic 3-3 tie with Mexico in a friendly match. Hazard and Belgium also discovered their World Cup matchups, drawn in Group G along with Panama, Tunisia, and England.
For Moussa Sow, November was a month worth celebrating. For the first time since 2002, Senegal qualified for the World Cup. Sow rode the bench during Senegal’s crucial 2-0 win over South Africa, which clinched qualification. Sow assisted Senegal’s first goal in the 2-1 win over South Africa four days later, back in Senegal. If Sow is selected in Senegal’s team for the World Cup in 2018, it will be the 32-year-old forward’s first trip to the tournament. Senegal face a fairly tough Group H, as they are joined by Poland, Colombia, and Japan.
Yohan Cabaye spent his November doing what he has consistently done best for his Crystal Palace team, quietly controlling the midfield. Thankfully for the Eagles, they were finally able to pick up points and make it out of last place in the Premier League. Crystal Palace only lost once in November, a respectable 1-0 defeat to a much stronger Tottenham Hotspur side on November fifth. After that defeat, a 2-2 tie with 10th-place Everton, a 2-1 win over 13th-place Stoke City, and a scoreless tie with arch-rivals Brighton & Hove Albion put Crystal Palace in 18th place to end November, three points away from escaping the relegation zone. Cabaye and the Eagles have four winnable games ahead of them, including a showdown with last-place Swansea City on December 23rd.
At home in San Diego, Demba Ba and the growing 1904 FC front office were busy as well. 1904 continued their remarkable community-building efforts, hosting a pair of events on November 7th, including a fundraiser for Meals on Wheels San Diego, part of a joint effort with Foody McFoody Face – a local organization which organizes food drives in the San Diego area – which raised a total of $1,081 by the end of November. 1904’s second event on the 7th was part of the club’s unique marketing strategy – a live “graffiti” painting of the club’s script-style alternate logo in downtown San Diego. Two weeks later, General Manager and Director of Football Operations Alexandre Gontran led a 1904 FC team at San Diego’s Run for the Hungry, a 5-kilometer charity run, Thanksgiving morning. The next day, Eden Hazard made his first social media appearance for 1904, the club posting a picture of Hazard holding a handwritten sign that read “BIG UP 1904 SD”. The club has also teased on Twitter that 1904 FC apparel would be available for purchase soon.
Eric, 19, University of San Diego. A soccer player and fan my whole life, I now have the distinct privilege of covering 1904 FC for the East Village Times.