Jonathan Bornstein's last practice with Chivas USA was winding down when defender Carlos Borja approached from behind and lifted Bornstein onto the shoulders of teammates Ben Zemanski and Sal Zizzo.
After five solid — sometimes spectacular — seasons with Chivas, the only professional club Bornstein has ever played with, the team couldn't bear to see its captain walk off the practice field for the final time. So they carried him.
Bornstein officially said goodbye to his teammates Saturday, making the last of a franchise-record 123 appearances for Chivas in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Fire. The 25-year-old defender will begin play next season in Mexico's Primera Division with Tigres UANL of Monterrey and his MLS exit was more bitter than sweet, coming in the final game of a season Chivas and Bornstein would probably just as soon forget.
Not only did Chivas fail to reach the playoffs for the first time since its inaugural season, finishing last in the Western Conference, but its eight wins are the second-lowest in franchise history. Yet Bornstein, who came to terms with the Tigres after returning from the World Cup in July, never asked for an early release, choosing to stay to the ugly end.
"It was a good way to kind of end it, even though we didn't win as many games as I would have liked," said Bornstein, who received a warm ovation from the crowd of 14,825 when he was substituted for with four minutes left in regulation. "They gave me my initial chance as a professional. They've always been good to me, so I wanted to give back to them as best I could.
"I did what we kind of agreed to. And maybe one day [I can] come back and do it all over again."
Bornstein wasn't much of a factor in his final MLS match, getting just one good scoring opportunity. And his left-footed shot early in the second half bounced right to Fire keeper Sean Johnson, who made the easy save.
Chicago's Brian McBride had a bit more luck. A three-time World Cup veteran who also was playing his final MLS match, McBride scored Chicago's first goal in spectacular fashion late in the first half, using his right heel to redirect a pass from Freddie Ljungberg behind him and into the goal. It was McBride's sixth goal of the year and the 80th of his 11-year MLS career.
Ljungberg got a goal of his own two minutes after the intermission and a couple of minutes after that McBride left to polite applause with his team leading, 2-0.
Chivas briefly threatened to make a game of it after second-half substitute Giancarlo Maldonado halved the deficit with a header in the 57th minute. But that threat was short-lived with Calen Carr, the man who replaced McBride, giving Chicago some insurance with a goal 11 minutes later. Baggio Husidic headed home a rebound in extra time for the final score.
Chicago won only nine times this season and missed the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history.