For Chivas USA, one cycle finished Saturday the same way it started: with a loss to the defending MLS champion.
With any luck, Chivas USA hope the dreadful stage will give way to another, more promising phase.
Saturday's 3-0 defeat at D.C. United marked the final game without the much-heralded reinforcements. Francisco Palencia, Juan Pablo Garcia and Hector "Pirata" Castro will be eligible to play in Chivas USA's match at the MetroStars on Sunday. The international transfer window is now open and, per transfer rules, the players will be able to play for the MLS club from now on.
After Saturday, there are nine games remaining on the schedule. Dead last on 12 points, Chivas USA likely need to pull off a miracle in order to reach the playoffs. But club officials have not given up hope.
"I'm sure we will finish this season strongly," said Antonio Cué, Chivas USA president and co-owner. "I'm an optimist but this team should get into the playoffs this year with any luck. Regardless, we're going to close this season strongly and give ourselves something to build on for the following preseason."
Palencia and Co. represent the types of players that Chivas USA wanted to bring into the mix all along, the kind of player whose status only Ramón Ramírez emulates. The team tried its luck with young, untested second-division players such as Isaac Romo and Armando Begines and, coupled with expansion leftovers and rookies, the combination has been a lethal mix.
A two-time World Cup veteran, Palencia is a known commodity in Mexico and abroad. Like the other newcomers, their credentials include years of first-division experience.
"They're quality players. Any time you get quality players like them that you know are going to help the team, that's a good feeling," Chivas USA 'keeper Brad Guzan said. "Obviously we have one more game without them. We have to play with the guys that we have and until they come we've got to work with what we have."
Quality they may be, but some hesitated against calling them saviors.
"If we think that Palencia is going to save the day, we're mistaken," Chivas USA forward Antonio Martinez said.
The club has been plagued by shoddy defending, fitness issues and poor finishing this season; lately, the club has been depleted due to injury. New players, no matter how talented, will not correct all of the errors that have afflicted this club.
"Two to three players are not going to win games. Everyone needs to raise their level of play," Martinez said. "We need to score goals and it comes from the defense on up. When we come out playing out of the back and we lose the ball or the forwards are not showing or whatever, we all need to play better."
Chivas of Guadalajara's third-string 'keeper from last season, Sergio García, will also join the team. Aside from Palencia, who arrived here on Aug. 4, the reinforcements have been training with the team since mid-July. Players have seen enough during training to know that the newcomers will improve the product.
"When they step on the field, it's going to be exciting to watch," Guzan said.
No matter what the club's record is at the end of the season, Chivas USA's September and October product will be significantly better than the April through June variety.
"The team will soon improve a great deal," Cué said. "We made mistakes and we were wrong on some things but we are committed to this long-term project."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.