Since Chivas USA kicked off their 2006 preseason camp, the club has clocked in, hit the field and put in an honest day's work nearly every single day. But the blue-collar approach has not yet paid off consistently in regular-season matches. Chivas USA won their season opener by 3-0 but have just one draw in four games since.
And even though the Red-and-White has been competitive in each and every match this season, the club is far from content.
"Nobody is satisfied and saying, 'Yeah, we played pretty good.' That's not what this is about at all," Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley said. "The growing process to now know how to get over the top and become a really good team and win games is an important and necessary step. The foundation part is in place but I think we've got to put the rest together."
Through five matches, Chivas USA sits on four points with a 1-3-1 record. The New York Red Bulls, Saturday's opponent, has already shut out Chivas this year, having kept the Red-and-White scoreless in the clubs' April 29 draw at The Home Depot Center.
Players and coaches said the club's results have been frustrating but it's no reason to change their approach to every game.
"The biggest challenge for a team is going into every game and playing well," Chivas defender Tim Regan said. "We're not about to change everything we're doing. It's just about a few guys coming up with plays on both sides of the field, attacking and defending. You see other teams do it all around our league. If we just stick to our task at hand we're going to be all right."
Training sessions have been rigorous from the start of training camp and the coaching staff has worked tirelessly into preparing Chivas and trying to be a competitive team. Two-hour practices on a soccer field are routinely followed by fitness sessions in a gym. Fitness levels have been high since the middle of training camp. Yet the club has struggled to carry its intense, high-paced sessions over into matches.
"Our training sessions during the week are at a high level. The games, we're playing at a high level but a couple of mental lapses here and there as a group have cost us games so far," Regan said. "We're a team that's still finding its way in terms of cohesion. I think we're still making progress and we're going to be a good team."
Perhaps if training sessions were not going well, the club would have more reason to worry. But Bradley seems content with the effort his players give during the week.
"We feel pretty strongly that there are a lot of good things but at the same time learning how to win and understanding the mentality of being a winner, that's the step we have to take now," Bradley said.
Ultimately, the club's struggles to put together a consistent 90-minute effort could be a result of growing pains. After all, many players were still putting names to faces and trying to figure out each other's tendencies just a few months ago.
"My experience is always that becoming a team is hard work and even when you're making progress, there are no guarantees that it's just all going to fall in place," Bradley said. "I try to keep a steady and strong hand on the group. I try to make sure they understand that there are certain things that are being done right. I don't want people scratching their heads and think that we have to go back to the drawing board because that's not even close."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.