CARSON, Calif. – One week before their season opener, Chivas USA received a wakeup call in the form of a 5-0 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes in the club’s final preseason game. After that fateful match, the Rojiblancos eagerly took to the training ground to work out the kinks ahead of their season opener against the Houston Dynamo on Sunday (7 pm ET, Galavision).
Now, after a week of intense work on the practice field, the Rojiblancos will get to test just how far they’ve come, not simply in the last week, but over the past two months.
“These last few days in training are the first days that I’ve really felt the atmosphere change,” defender Heath Pearce told reporters on Friday after training. "We’ve sort of been going through the motions this preseason, a little bit more than we should in terms of taking it seriously or demanding results in every training and every game.
"But these last few days, it’s been extremely intense and you can feel that there is an aura about the team. The team is realizing just where we are right now and the first game is on Sunday and three points are what matters now.”
The Rojiblancos will look to take those three points from the defending Eastern Conference champions Houston Dynamo. The Dynamo will be lifted by the return of playmaker Brad Davis, who missed the club’s MLS Cup defeat with a right quad tear.
With Davis as well as Brian Ching at the forefront, the Dynamo boast one of MLS’ most composed and focused outfits. And for a Chivas side that has emphasized focus over 90 minutes this preseason, the Dynamo offer the most ideal initial test.
“Houston’s the epitome of the honest, hard-working, blue-collar team,” head coach Robin Fraser told reporters on Friday. “They’re a lot of teams that like to claim that title, but Houston is one of these teams for me that puts in a very honest shift. The players don’t cheat, they don’t give you anything, they’re extremely focused both offensively and defensively and, as a result, they get results. The key is to be as engaged or more engaged than a team like that.”
The Dynamo’s abilities aside, the Rojiblancos believe that looking inward will be the key to a victory in their first competitive match of 2012. In particular, finding better form at home is pivotal after Chivas accrued just five wins at home – including one against Houston – in 2011.
While it remains to be seen if Chivas can improve on last year’s mistakes, for a club that spent the preseason finding their legs, a victory against the defending Eastern Conference title-holders could spur the Rojiblancos on to greater things.
“It’s big to get a good result, that’s what is eventually going to move us forward,” forward Juan Pablo Ángel told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s always important to get off to a good start and especially for us – a new team with a lot of new players. We’ll get a big boost of confidence if we can get a result on Sunday.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.