CARSON, Calif. – There were too many underlying question marks immediately following the hire of new coach José Luis Sánchez Solá for Dan Kennedy to be completely sure about the direction of Chivas USA. And initially there was concern.
Yet about a month into preseason camp, the 30-year-old goalkeeper is excited about where the club is headed in its first year under “El Chelís.”
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Kennedy told reporters on Wednesday. “I’ve been through plenty of coaching changes in my career and I didn’t know what to expect. I had never met [Sánchez Solá] before, but he’s brought great energy and expectation to the group. He really drives the group forward and we’ve seen it with our results this preseason. I’m happy with where we’re at right now. We were kind of, I guess, scrambling to put it all together. We didn’t have much of a foundation as of December 31st, but in the short five weeks we’ve made some great strides.”
Highlights: Chivas USA vs. Gangwon (Feb. 19)
The Rojiblancos have gone unbeaten in seven exhibition matches this preseason, highlighted by a 3-0 victory against the Colorado Rapids last week in Las Vegas. Chivas USA also earned a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire in early February.
“We’re growing,” Kennedy said. “With each result we get, the group gets a little closer and starts building trust in each other. That’s why this preseason has been one of the most important so far in my time here.
"I still say the most important game for us is the opening game against Columbus. I’ve been on teams that have gone [winless] in preseason and started off 7-0-2; I think we did that with Preki. What this is is a good building block, but you don’t gain points in this league in preseason.”
It's been a preseason marked by significant turnover at Chivas, with Nick LaBrocca, Casey Townsend, Ben Zemanski, James Riley and Shalrie Joseph being traded away.
“With the group changing so much, I guess what I’m most happiest with is how close the group already is together,” Kennedy said. “We’ve had some obstacles, but we’ve found a way to come together. We understand how hard the season is going to be, but it’s important that through that we stick together.”
And Sánchez Solá pegged Kennedy as his captain early in training camp, which defused some of the uncertainty surrounding the netminder’s future with the club amid the flurry of player transactions.
“I’m proud to be a leader in this group, I’m proud to be a leader for this organization,” Kennedy said. “Really, at the end of the day, it’s not going to come down to just me leading. There’s going to be a lot of guys in this locker room that we need to be leaders. I’ve been here a long time and played a lot of games here. I’m honored to wear the captain’s arm band, but I expect that all the big veterans in this group will be leaders, too.”