CARSON, Calif. — Just moments after establishing their worst record since the inaugural 2005 season, Chivas USA players had already set their sights on next year.
It was perhaps their only option. The Rojiblancos have not qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs since 2009, but a promising final month would have been a consolation of sorts.
Instead, Chivas USA capped their season with five consecutive defeats, including an embarrassing 5-0 loss on Saturday to the Western Conference-leading Portland Timbers. It was the final blow in a year filled with bumps and bruises. Alas, the mere thought of next season offered a glimpse of hope.
“We know it’s not going to be the same team,” defender Carlos Borja told reporters. “People are going to leave and different people are going to come, but that’s not going to change the system.
"Coach [José Luis Real] has brought a system that is going to stay here for a long time. We just have to keep working at that system. It’s going to be good for us. I can see positive things from this season and hope next season [brings] so much more.”
This year’s 6-20-8 mark was the worst since 2005, when the Goats won only four of their 32 games. They won just seven in 2012 and eight in each of the two seasons before that. The 2013 season will be remembered for brief tenure of José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá, as well as the constant turnover and irregularity in the starting lineup.
“This is a team that displayed what all of us could see: inconsistency,” Real told reporters. “It is a team with a lot of young people, a team that transformed 40 percent from the beginning of the season, but a team that competed in every match.
“The most important thing is that the idea is going to remain and, logically with this commitment, this project will pass onto a different and better phase for next season.”
Rookie forward Erick “Cubo” Torres, arguably the most promising player on a roster full of unproven youngsters, did not yet know if he would return next season. That decision, Torres said, will be made by the Guadalajara-based staff when he returns to Mexico to train this offseason. Torres, who scored seven goals in 15 games, would be welcomed back with open arms.
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“I’m leaving very happy in terms of the goals I scored,” said Torres, who failed to find the net in his last six games. “I took a lot from this season. I would be very happy to return next year because it is a process that has been very important for my career, both on and off the field.
“Hopefully next year will be different with players we can incorporate into the group to make us better," Torres added. "It’s going to be a different year. We’re going to get better and hopefully get into the playoffs.”