Chivas USA seeing improvement as they look to play spoiler in the Western Conference

Carlos Bocanegra in Chivas USA colors

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USA TODAY Sports

CARSON, Calif. – The change at Chivas USA, according to veteran center back Carlos Bocanegra, had already begun when he returned to MLS two months ago.

The difference today, though, is the Rojiblancos’ promise of late is finally paying off in the form of results: They’ve bagged eight points from their last six matches and become a nuisance to playoff contenders.

“We’ve definitely improved,” Bocanegra said. “That’s been the goal. We’ve had a few losses in there, but overall we’ve improved. We’re starting to get a few results.”

The Goats have six matches remaining, including a difficult challenge this Saturday against the Portland Timbers at the StubHub Center (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live). They leave town just two more times this year, with trips to Houston and Real Salt Lake left on the schedule.

A playoff spot is no longer realistic, yet the motivation to grow remains.

“We’re at a point in the season where we’re trying to improve and trying to play spoiler,” goalkeeper Dan Kennedy said. “Hopefully we can improve enough as a team and improve enough as individuals to build a core group of guys for next season. We really haven’t been able to do that the last few seasons here.”

Youngsters like Erick “Cubo” Torres and Marco Delgado have become consistent starters, while head coach José Luis “Guero” Real has also gotten looks at Bryan de la Fuente and Matthew Fondy, among others. The lineup figures to keep changing over the next seven weeks as the coaching staff continues its assessment.

The oldest and most experienced player on the roster, meanwhile, has been impressed with Real’s approach.

“He’s a good teacher,” Bocanegra said. “I’ve said it every week: He’s all about the guys learning and improving. He hammers home the tactics and us being organized. It’s definitely paying off."