July was a fantastic month for Chivas USA.
In that month, Chivas USA tripled their win total from the previous three months. The Red-and-White won two Major League Soccer matches and a third-round U.S. Open Cup match to boot. Chivas USA played the competitive soccer they lacked so dearly at the beginning of the season.
Now, the club looks to build on its success with hopes of having enough time to make something out of this season.
"We know it's now or never. We're preparing with that kind of motivation. We need to get maximum points however we can," Chivas USA defender Ezra Hendrickson said. "We definitely want to make the playoffs. We think we can do it if we continue playing the way we were playing the last 2-3 games before the break. Unfortunately the break came at that point because we kind of had that momentum going."
In Chivas' last game before the All-Star break, the club beat Eastern power New England 1-0. That game was the culmination of the entire month of July. The defense was neat and tidy and forced New England to fire nine of its 11 shots well off target. It was just the second clean sheet for Chivas USA's Brad Guzan, but it could easily have been his third of the month. Chicago and Los Angeles each broke through late in their respective matches against Chivas in matches that were ultimately decided late.
"Look at three of our last games; Chicago, Galaxy and New England. The difference in those games is not scoring," Hendrickson said. "I think we played well in all those three games."
Throw in the 5-1 dismantling of Real Salt Lake and Chivas finished with a 2-2 league mark and outscored their opponents 6-4. In previous months, Chivas had been outscored 12-5, 11-4 and 15-6 while accumulating one, three and two points during those months, respectively.
Confidence has not wavered and, in fact, seems to be increasing given the club's turnaround. Players are aware of the difficult road that lies ahead, though.
"None of our games is going to be easy," Hendrickson said. "Teams are realizing that we're playing better now so they're going to be more prepared. It's going to get tougher. It's not going to be an easy road but I think we're capable of getting to where we want to get and that's just getting to the playoffs."
What could help Chivas are the new arrivals. Juan Pablo Garcia, Hector "Pirata" Castro and Sergio Garcia have been training with the team and will be available after the international transfer window opens on Aug. 15. Francisco Palencia has not yet trained with the team but is expected soon.
The new players, however, will not change things. The current players have already started that process. Reinforcements will give simply give the club more options.
"It's something that we hope we can keep adding to. We have some players coming and that's going to help," Hendrickson said. "I think if we make it to the playoffs, we're going to surprise some teams."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.