Chivas may have gotten nowhere near the playoffs in the Clausura season, but that doesn’t mean they have been out of the news, even with the Liga MX Liguilla reaching its crescendo. On Saturday – during the America-Monterrey Liga MX semifinal – the club released a statement announcing the purchase of Pachuca right back Nestor Vidrio. It’s a solid signing. The 24-year-old is in his prime, can also play in the center of defense and possesses the kind of quality that will improve Chivas instantly.
It is no secret that Chivas are looking to rejuvenate the ailing squad that finished the Clausura season in a miserable 17th position. Sporting director Dennis te Kloese said as much even before the regular season ended. Now with the Clausura playoffs at the semifinal stage and the June 5 player draft in Cancun creeping up, the club is working hard behind the scenes on getting deals in place to strengthen ahead of next season's Apertura 2013. First of all, te Kloese has stated that Omar Esparza (who was on loan at San Luis) and Antonio Gallardo (on loan at Queretaro) are very likely to return to the club.
As Club Deportivo Guadalajara turned 107 Wednesday, there was little celebration and players were busy painting the front of a local orphanage. Unlike most clubs that didn't make the playoffs, Chivas players have been made to stay around Guadalajara this week to carry out altruistic works around the city. The club says it isn't any kind of punishment, but it's hard to believe considering it came off the back of the game last Friday against Tijuana which Chivas lost, 4-0. Local journalists reported rumors suggesting some players had to cancel pre-planned vacations.
The season has come to an abrupt halt for Chivas, the winds of change are in the air and coach Benjamin Galindo has sat down with directors about plans for next season. Signings are promised to fill some of the sizable holes in the squad, but considering Chivas are made up only of Mexican players, options are naturally more limited compared to other clubs. What followers are 11 players who are realistic signings (i.e., not Chicharito or Carlos Vela) and could improve on what Guadalajara has at the moment.
Abysmal? Shambolic? Embarrassing? If you had to sum up Chivas' 2-1 defeat on Sunday in the Estadio Omnilife against 10-man Queretaro in one word, it would be one along those lines. The club itself agreed. Coach Benjamin Galindo said after the game that his players lacked attitude, while sporting president Dennis te Kloese suggested that there will now be actions, not words to rectify the situation, which was widely interpreted as an overhaul of the squad. The focus on promoting youth is and should remain a strong part of the club's ethos, but the fact nine homegrown players have debuted this season can be interpreted too as an over-reliance on untried youth.
Despite the poor season Chivas have endured this Clausura, nobody can accuse the club of shirking their stated aim of giving youth a chance. Eight youth-teamers have debuted with the first team this season. With that in mind, I sat down recently in Chivas’ Verde Valle training complex in Guadalajara with director of sporting development Jose Luis "Guero" Real for an exclusive ESPNFC interview about the importance of youth within Chivas and to go over what fans can expect from players who debuted this season.
It may be just chismes (gossip), as Chivas owner Jorge Vergara told ESPN's David Faitelson on Tuesday, but stories about a possible sale of CD Guadalajara are not going away. They have been doing the rounds with a degree of regularity recently and it isn't difficult to see why, but we'll get to that... On Tuesday, it was daily sports newspaper Record -- loosely based on Spain's Marca -- that led with the front-page headline: "Slim to the rescue". The story alleges that negotiations between people representing the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, and Jorge Vergara have already started and are going well.
Watching Chivas these last few weeks has been excruciating. Injuries have kept key players like Marco Fabian and Hector Reynoso out, while poor refereeing decisions have had a major impact of the result of three of Chivas' last four games (all of which were losses). On Saturday, it was a 1-0 loss in the Estadio Jalisco against bitter city rivals Atlas and another case of refereeing decisions hurting Chivas. Rafa Marquez Lugo was yellow carded for what the referee thought was a dive and then shown a second yellow moments later when the striker sarcastically clapped the decision.
Ask Chivas fans in Guadalajara which team they would most like to defeat in any given season and the answer will very likely be Atlas, not America. That might seem surprising considering the hype that accompanies the clasico nacional, but it is the day-to-day banter with work colleagues, friends, partners, family members and the barra bravas of each club that give the clasico tapatio a special, claustrophobic, almost incestuous feel. It's also that old adage that if you can't overcome your next-door neighbor, how are you going to claim to be the biggest team in the land?
It wasn’t too long ago that Chivas fans were taunting city rivals Atlas about this Saturday's Clasico Tapatio, asserting it would be the game to clinch the Rojinegros’ relegation to the second division. How the tables have turned. Last Saturday, Atlas confirmed their place in the Liga MX for the next year and are set for the playoffs. The next day at the Estadio Ominlife, Chivas succumbed 2-1 to Atlante, a team in the running for being the worst in Mexico’s top flight. The playoff race is now all but over, despite manager Benjamin Galindo stressing that "miracles" can happen.
Like the playoff system or not, it certainly provides a good deal of interest when it comes to the business end of the season. It also gives teams that have been mediocre for large parts of the campaign plenty of chances to squeeze into one of those top eight ahead of the postseason roulette. Chivas are hoping that their lukewarm season -- just three wins in 13 matches -- can spring to life starting this weekend. Another three victories from the final four games will see the Guadalajara club in or close to the playoffs, and Sunday's game in the Estadio Omnlife against Atlante is the easiest you could ask for at this point.
It's only a short trip across the sprawling western Mexican city of Guadalajara from the under-developed metropolitan zone of Tonala to the plush Estadio Omnilife, but every time Chivas' Luis Morales makes the journey, it's a reminder of just how far he has come. Famous for its handmade crafts, Tonala is where Morales still lives with his parents, helps in the family corner store and where the 20-year-old was happily playing for local club Vaqueros de Ixtlan in Mexico's third division this time last year.