When Chivas USA departed from Southern California on Friday, the club not only was headed to Chicago for Saturday's game against Chicago, it was headed in a new and potentially more lucrative direction than it had all season.
Chivas USA left with new coach Hans Westerhof in tow. The former Ajax and PSV Eindhoven boss will look to right the wrongs the club suffered through its first 10 games. Already, the Red-and-White have responded positively to the move, having pulled out a 1-1 draw against Kansas City on Wednesday as assistant coach Javier "Zully" Ledesma served as interim coach.
But it's up to the players to either turn the season around or continue sinking into Major League Soccer's abyss.
"There are two different types of people: There are the people, who under pressure, fall like a straw house in the wind. There are other players that come to challenges and under extreme amount of pressure, they show up and surpass all kinds of expectations," Chivas USA defender Ryan Suarez said. "If you don't show up, Hans will find a way to replace you."
Suarez admitted that the club's potential acquisition of two Mexican first-division players has been difficult for the players to handle.
"It's hard to fight for one another when you have the guys at the head saying, 'We don't like what we have here. We want to bring new guys in,'" Suarez said. "Obviously, that puts a fire in a couple of the boys' bellies and you saw that (against Kansas City). Everyone worked their ass off."
With Westerhof aboard, players said it was only a matter of time before the roster is shuffled.
"He has a lot of pull in Mexico and he's Jorge Vergara's right-hand man," Suarez said. "Whatever Hans says goes. He can bring in whoever he wants whenever he wants. Obviously if we don't perform to the level that they expect us to, we'll find ourselves in a similar situation that's going on with the rest of the team."
Players also said they felt that few places in the lineup were secure, which puts more emphasis on the suddenly rigorous training sessions. But Chivas USA 'keeper Brad Guzan said that is one thing that has not changed.
"From Day One, they were going to put the best 11 players they think are going to get a result that weekend," he said. "With a new coach, it's going to be the same thing. The guys that are working hard and playing well together, those players are going to be on the field on Saturday."
As far as players who have been working hard, seemingly all healthy players fit that description. Westerhof has upped the intensity and frequency of the club's training sessions. Players had two training sessions Tuesday and trained Wednesday morning, several hours before the start of their match against the Wizards.
Friday, the club sneaked in a training session before leaving Los Angeles on an afternoon flight. The taxing week has taken its toll on the players.
"We can only hope the boys can last the game," Suarez said. "We're all tired but Chicago's tired. We don't have an excuse just like they don't other than they're at home. But we are tired. We are mentally and physically fatigued. We did all right (Wednesday). Sometimes your body does well under pressure and we've got to take this fitness to a whole other level."
Still, optimism reigns supreme despite the tough start and the sudden coaching change.
"We're in a tough situation right now," Guzan said. "We're in a big hole and it's going to be difficult to come out of but with the guys we have on this team and the perseverance and the right attitude and mentality, I think we'll be able to come out of that hole. I think that soon we'll be able to show the league that we can do this."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.