CARSON, Calif. – Riding a four-game winning streak that has thrust them back into the thick of the MLS playoff race, Chivas USA have newfound belief in their chances to crack the top five in the Western Conference this year.
In less than three weeks since the World Cup break, the Rojiblancos have climbed from the bottom of the standings and sit only five points behind the No. 2 position heading into Sunday’s road game against Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United (8 pm ET, Univision Deportes).
Though they are optimistic about what the next three months could hold, the Goats know they still have plenty to do to complete their resurgence.
“It’s been very positive, but we know our role in this moment is to keep building this team and having patience in all aspects,” veteran midfielder Mauro Rosales told reporters on Wednesday. “The only way we can continue to have good results is by playing together as a unit.
“Getting closer to the playoffs is something we want, and clubs always need something like that, but we have to be a little less excited knowing that we’re facing teams that are much, much better than us.
"Our team is doing what we have to do to be close to them and fight every game, but no game is going to be easy. This is what we’re working for; we’ve had good results against powerful teams, and this gives us a line of what we can do and believe in our quality.”
For five months, first-year head coach Wilmer Cabrera stressed the importance of sticking with the process, even when Chivas USA weren’t bagging results. They limped through an eight-game winless streak early in the season and plunged into the cellar.
Yet a five-game unbeaten streak in league play – starting with a 1-1 draw against hallway rivals LA Galaxy on June 8 – has brought them new life.
“It is important because we’ve been working from the beginning with this mentality and this idea,” Cabrera told reporters. “We haven’t changed anything. The only thing that has changed is that the players are getting better and understanding each other better. We’re more adjusted, and we’re now in a situation where we’re more difficult for other teams and can get things done.”
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The Rojiblancos have allowed only two goals during their unbeaten stretch, and captain Carlos Bocanegra has credited continuity in the lineup as a reason for the turnaround.
“Obviously we know we’re not going to win out the rest of the year; that’s very difficult to do,” Bocanegra said. “But we’re in the mix and giving ourselves a chance. That’s the biggest thing; we caught up to the pack at the perfect time, right in the middle of the season. We didn’t fall too far behind.
"Now we’re not chasing dreams, so to speak. It’s not desperate every game. We can go out there, get a draw and it’s OK. If we lose a game but win the next one, we’re still in the mix. That’s the most important thing for us.”