HARRISON, NJ - MAY 23: Califf: Chivas have their eyes on the prize. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Chivas USA have enjoyed an up and down season, but there is a sense that they have an opportunity at this point in the season. As the team that has played the fewest games in the Western Conference so far this season, Chivas have at least two games in hand on every team, and have four games in hand on three teams, including the rival LA Galaxy. As I discussed earlier this week, Sunday's edition of the SuperClasico comes with added weight for the Goats, as it could prove crucial in the playoff chase as well as the ever-present concerns about beating the big rivals.
The players understand the weight of the upcoming game as well. In an interview Friday with The Goat Parade, Chivas defender Danny Califf explained the multiple objectives the team is trying to balance, both Sunday and beyond.
In discussing the rivalry between Chivas and the Galaxy, Califf made it clear that the players understand the gravity well. "We know our reputation as the little brother," but he noted that the team hopes to change the club's reputation starting with a good performance Sunday.Beyond the SuperClasico, however, Califf also noted the fact that a win over the Galaxy would help the Chivas in the playoff race moving forward, saying that the rivalry is important, but it's being weighted with an eye on the ultimate goal of the season, which is making the MLS Cup playoffs.
Perhaps the biggest sign of a team that has undergone major changes since the 2011 season, when the team collapsed in the final 10 games of the season as they tried to push for a playoff berth, was Califf's explanation regarding the team's mindset heading into the final third of the season. "We don't feel any additional pressure from outside. The pressure [to make the playoffs] comes from within the team."
If the team can indeed live up to the expectation that they are a playoff team in 2012, it must surely be due to the impact of key veterans who have given the club essential leadership, including Califf, Peter Vagenas, and new arrival Shalrie Joseph.
For his part, Califf indicated Joseph could provide an immediate impact on the field. When asked about the former Revolution midfielder, he said Joseph "has given the team an instant lift in training this week."
If Califf's arrival to Chivas, the week before Chivas' first match against the Galaxy this season, is any indication, perhaps Joseph's arrival can provide another three points over the Goats' biggest rival. But bragging rights are only one part of the equation, and Chivas enter the final third of the season focused on the season's main prize.
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