There are plenty of reasons why Chivas USA currently sit in last place in the Western Conference. But through all of them, perhaps the worst is the one feeling most prevalent in locker room: the ever-present impending sense of doom.
And for assistant coach Greg Vanney, it's an awful feeling.
“No matter how much you play or no matter how much you do, that moment that’s going to cost you the game is going to come,” Vanney told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday evening. “That’s a little bit of the fight that we’re fighting through right now.”
Wednesday’s loss at Columbus was the latest in a string of results that have gone against Chivas where one key moment turned the tide. The Crew buried an 89th-minute goal to win 1-0. Last weekend, a penalty called by the fourth official sank Chivas’ hopes against the Earthquakes, while Seattle’s Fredy Montero had a sublime pass to Eddie Johnson in the 89th minute of the Sounders’ 2-1 win over the Rojiblancos on Sept. 8.
Opponents have had their moments against Chivas, but the reverse does not hold true.
“From preseason on, we haven’t been able to garner up that moment, that game where the guys really feel like they’ve found their identity as a group, where they go, ‘I know exactly what it’s going to take to win games and to win games our way,’” Vanney said.
Slowly but surely, not having a moment, a performance to point to has had a counterproductive effect, and contributed to the club’s sinking feeling. Compounded with each passing game, the sense of an inevitable disaster has become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, Vanney said.
“We’ve been unfortunate to not have that moment so it’s almost like as the game progresses that there’s a feeling in the group that something strange is going to happen to us at some point, something is going to turn the tide on us,” he said. “That’s kind of where it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
It’s not necessarily a losing mentality. Players’ belief has never wavered, even during the club’s current eight-match winless streak. The Goats get a chance to reverse that when they visit D.C. United on Sunday (7 pm ET, Galavision).
“I do think the guys believe in themselves, they clearly believe in the effort and what they’re doing out there but we keep managing to find that slip, that moment,” Vanney said. “There’s all kinds of little things but they add up and make a season.”
Following Wednesday’s match, Vanney said the coaching staff’s message to the team was simple.
“‘You guys are so much better than your record indicates but somehow, the soccer gods keep managing to twist your fate at the end of games or in certain parts of games, but just keep plugging away,'" Vanney recounted. "That’s just how the season has been."
Luis Bueno covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by email at email@example.com.