Rongen at a loss with Chivas USA
Chivas USA has gone through more peaks and valleys than any of its players or staff likely would have ever asked for. With players reneging on commitments or walking away altogether to key injuries and massive lineup moves, the Red-and-White had seemingly encountered every foreseeable obstacle.
Sunday, though, the club may have hit rock bottom as FC Dallas demolished Chivas USA. From 32 seconds in to second-half stoppage time, the FC Dallas offense was relentless and finished with a 5-2 victory.
The five goals were the most surrendered by a club that had already allowed the most in the league. The Red-and-White now have one win and one draw from nine matches with its lone victory two weeks ago having led to nothing.
"It's like we're living a nightmare right now," defender Ryan Suarez said. "At the end of the day, there's just no more excuses. I don't know ... I don't have an answer for this."
The locker room was a stark contrast to the last time Chivas USA played at home. On May 7, Chivas USA beat Real Salt Lake and afterward players were happy about picking up their first win and optimistic about the season. Sunday, players struggled to find the right words to describe their emotions.
"We have to go back to the drawing board and try to come up with a solution," Ezra Hendrickson said. "What that is, I can't tell you right now."
Chivas USA have yet another Major League Soccer power staring down at them. Saturday, Chivas USA host the Los Angeles Galaxy, who are a perfect 5-0 at The Home Depot Center this season.
But the Galaxy were worlds away from the players' thoughts Sunday. Francisco Gomez said that Sunday's loss was particularly difficult to handle.
"There are more games to come and we don't want this anymore in this locker room," Gomez said. "We want to be happy, we want to be together and getting losses like this isn't going to help."
About 10 minutes after the match, Rongen went into a stream-of-consciousness-like monologue, reflecting on much of what the club has gone through and his own standing with the team.
"I've given this team my total faith. If there are shortcomings, it's maybe not on the playing field," Rongen said. "I've got to look at myself tonight in the mirror and ask 'Where did we go wrong and how do we rectify it and how do I need to do it as the ultimate responsible guy in this organization?
"I'm not going shed the blame on the players. I can't ask more from them in terms of their work rate, their attitude, their fight."
When asked if he felt as if his job is danger, Rongen said he had no doubt he would be on the sidelines for Saturday's Super Clásico.
"That's not even in question," he said. "I get stronger, I get tougher when things get (bad)."
Chivas USA president and co-owner Antonio Cue said he will have a meeting Monday with Rongen to discuss the state of the team. Cue was asked if Rongen would be around for Saturday's match.
"Thomas will be our coach against the Galaxy," Cue said. "I have a lot of confidence in him. He and I are going to sit down tomorrow to see what's working right, what's not working right and just try to fix it but Thomas is going to be our coach for the Galaxy game."
Despite the moribund mood in the locker room Rongen refused to say the club had hit rock bottom.
"Rock bottom I think is when there's no return," Rongen said. "Clearly, there's a lot of resiliency left and there's a very capable group of people here that can turn things around."
Rongen acknowledged that much of the blame is being aimed toward him.
"Ultimately, looking at this right now, I'm responsible for ... putting the best 11 on the field," he said. "The buck stops obviously with me and I've got to do some soul-searching myself."
In training this week, Rongen said he needs to set the example for his players by having a good attitude.
"I'm not a quitter," he said. "I'll keep fighting and I expect the team to do the same thing. You put your team in the best position to be successful each and every game and as a coaching staff we feel we've done that but clearly we fall short in quite a lot of areas."
In the end, Rongen said if a turnaround is to happen, it will need to start from within.
"It's a good group of guys that just has to right this ship and turn this thing around," he said. "There's nobody else outside who can do it except for ourselves."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.