CARSON, Calif. – Just as Eric Avila was crediting team chemistry for Chivas USA’s early-season success, teammate Giovani Casillas joined a group of reporters with a menacing smile on his face, holding a sandal in his right hand and pretending it was a microphone.
Chivas USA are winning, and they're having fun doing so.
Despite not scoring as many goals theirtheir previous wins, manager José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá called Saturday night’s 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps the best game his team has played this season. Chivas USA capped a strong month by leaping up to 10 points, enough for them to sit alone in second place in the Western Conference.
“How beautiful they play at times,” Chelís said in his postgame press conference. “During a span I was telling myself, ‘I’m leaving. I already sold what I needed to sell.’ But I warm up to it and want more of those sequences. And they can do it.”
With two more goals, Chivas USA maintained their spot atop the MLS leader board in that category. And it’s an important statistic for a coach who has said on a number of occasions he was brought to the United States to entertain.
“We had the ball a lot and we dared to possess the ball,” Chelís said. “There was no better week to attempt this style of play. Any team that wants to beat us, either here or on the road, has to run more than us. If they don’t out-run us, it’s a guaranteed point for us. By what I’ve seen of these Chivas USA players, who fight and battle, the point is already assured.”
The Rojiblancos took chances, with rookie Carlos Alvarez finding the back of the net by inadvertently deflecting a strike off a Vancouver player’s shoulder. They also generated some pristine sequences, highlighted by Avila’s volley of a Jorge Villafaña across-the-field lob pass.
Then, they celebrated together – something Avila said the team practiced a bit last week during its trip to Chicago.
“We’ve been working hard since preseason,” Villafaña said. “They probably didn’t expect us to come out strong this year, but we know what we’re doing. We know what we have to do. Things are coming out our way and we’re winning games.”
As a giggling Casillas scampered off with sandal in hand, searching for his next victim, Avila credited the camaraderie the team has built in its two months together.
“All the guys in the locker room are just great,” he said. “Everyone is on the same page. No one is doing any individual stuff. We’re working together and it’s helping out a lot. Yeah, we have a couple things to work on, but as a unit it’s making us stronger.”