CARSON, Calif. — Having suffered through a difficult and trying season with Chivas USA, veteran midfielder Peter Vagenas may be open for the same criticism as his teammates.
Criticize Vagenas for not helping generate enough attack, for not being able to slow down opponents when the club needed it, for not doing enough on the field to get the necessary results. But don’t bring the hammer down on him for his approach and outlook, for his desire and will to win.
“I can only speak for myself but my motivation is a personal pride,” Vagenas told MLSsoccer.com. “Maybe it’s selfish but I’ve been doing this a long time, I’ve sort of been considered a winner in this league and I take it personally, whether I’m fighting for playoffs, MLS Cups, whatever, I want to win.”
That want and desire was not enough in 2012, as Chivas USA have two games remaining in what has been an altogether miserable campaign. Vagenas himself has not played a major role, having appeared in just 11 games.
Still, he has been a steadying presence in the locker room, which was perhaps one of his most important roles all along. A champion many times over, Vagenas knows what it takes — both on the field and off — to win in MLS.
Funny thing is, he likes what he sees in his last-place squad.
“It’s going to sound crazy, but this is a good soccer team made up of good soccer players,” Vagenas said. “Regardless of what our record shows, we have fantastic coaches, we have some fantastic players. There’s pride at the end of the day.”
Perhaps there was more for Chivas to accomplish in 2012. With Vagenas (two MLS Cups, four US Open Cups) playing no small role, Los Rojiblancos seemed to have plenty of experience and veteran leadership, the glue that often holds winning teams together.
But mistakes were made, games were lost and the losing piled up. The intangibles held the team together, perhaps not in the way the club had hoped, but it was still important if only to keep players from completely losing their sanity.
“When I lose, it’s upsetting,” Vagenas said. “We have a lot of guys who are prideful and they want to win. At the very least, that’s the motivation.”
On the heels of a demoralizing seven-match losing streak, carrying a scoreless skid that was embarrassing and growing larger by the minute, Chivas USA could have gone through the motions, taken their lumps and another shutout loss this past Sunday against FC Dallas. But that motivation, that spirit that has carried Vagenas throughout his career, was still present. And unlike other matches, this time it helped the team to a goal and a point in a come-from-behind 1-1 draw.
And that matters.
“I happened to look up in the 84th minute and half our team is standing up, cheering the guys on,” Vagenas said. “There’s something to be said for that.”
Luis Bueno covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.