CARSON, Calif. – A strong preseason suggested Chivas USA might be this year’s surprise package, climbing up from the wreckage of 2012 into playoff contention in 2013.
Through four regular season games, it's "so far, so good." But manager José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá quickly pointed out that there is quite a bit of work that still needs doing.
In short: Despite sitting in second place in the Western Conference standings after four matches, the fiery coach isn't convinced.
“Everyone talks of a Chivas team that is force, a Chivas that scores many goals, but that’s not the case,” Chelís told MLSsoccer.com this week. “We still have a lot of to cover and room to grow. There’s a lot we must improve. The reason we have seven points is because we’ve been united as one.”
The Rojiblancos have scored an MLS-leading eight goals through four matches – all in the last three since being shut out in the opener – but have a goal differential of only +2. That's good enough for second place in the Western Conference heading into Saturday’s home match against the Vancouver Whitecaps (10:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
But "good enough" isn't quite good enough for Chelís – even if he does allow his squad to revel in their March success.
“I don’t know if we’ve surprised the league, but we have turned in a good performance so far,” midfielder Edgar Mejía told MLSsoccer.com. “If [other teams] didn’t respect us much before, hopefully we’ve gotten some now. They might know Chivas USA exists. We’re good and we’re out for more.”
Chivas USA beat the Chicago Fire, 4-1, on the road last week despite losing in duels (68 to 42), passing accuracy (74 to 60) and possession percentage (57 to 43).
The key has been progress, players say. Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy has been a big proponent of building team confidence through early results, and according to Chelís, there haven’t been any backward steps.
“In soccer, you’ve got to shoot for two victories within a match,” Chelís added. “To get a double win, you’ve got to get the points but also win credibility and gain something mentally.
"If you lose on the scoreboard, you’ve still got to win something. You can’t leave the pitch empty-handed. It could be that against Columbus we lost 3-0 [in the opener], but we won a lot of other things. We realized this league is a difficult one and it’s important for us to run more, attack more and fight. In eight days we corrected the issue and scored three times against FC Dallas. This team always has to win something. We’ve only taken steps forward.”