Chivas relieve mounting pressure with Monterrey win

Posted by Tom Marshall

Elizabeth Fuentes/LatinContent/Getty ImagesAfter grabbing a big win in Monterrey over Rayados, Marco Fabian and Chivas are full of confidence ahead of their weekend contest with Puebla.

Chivas inaugurated and trained on a new pitch inside the high security Puente Grande prison just outside of Guadalajara on Monday. It's the same place where Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most wanted drug lord, escaped from via a laundry cart back in 2001. He has been on the run from the law ever since.

Chivas may have found welcome shelter there from mounting criticism had they not picked up their first three points of the season with a 1-0 victory away in Monterrey on Saturday evening. Fans and press on the outside would've been sharpening their knives, questioning how and why the team had failed to win in 2013 and exactly what drove the club's owners to spend just short of $200,000 USD on a state-of-the-art artificial turf pitch inside a prison.

But the clinical smash-and-grab victory in the northern Mexican city lifted the doom of the Guadalajara fans, press and players and the Monday morning prison trip was an unequivocal triumph.

The players engaged in friendly banter with the inmates in Mexico's second-highest security prison facility and some even gave away their Chivas-stamped apparel to those that won't be visiting any of the official shops dotted around the city anytime soon. The more generous members of the squad gave so much of their clothing away that they left the massive 3,100-capacity complex wearing little more than their underwear.

Smiles were the order of the day though and there is clearly a renewed sense that the change in the atmosphere at Chivas can help the Rojiblancos kick on and reach the higher echelons of the Liga MX table.

Marco Fabian certainly thinks so. He was in a bold mood talking to the press, even firing off a warning to rival teams.
"Now watch," said the forward. "Chivas has gained confidence. We know there is a lot of quality in this team."

The words of the 23-year-old Olympic gold medal winner must've sounded like music to the ears of head coach Benjamin Galindo. Fabian has been improving in form in the last couple of weeks and can be the pivotal figure for his hometown team. If he wants his "dream" move to Europe this summer and to establish himself with the national team, being the key figure in Chivas is his first priority.

Young center back Kristian Alvarez was sent off two games ago against Morelia with his team 1-0 to the good, before the Michoacan outfit equalized with just minutes to go. He, too, stressed how vital the win was for team morale and perhaps his own, too.

"We knew that it was very important to win," he said. "It was what we were missing. Since Benjamin Galindo arrived, the team has been playing well without obtaining that win."

What would've pleased Galindo most on Saturday was the spirit the team showed in a stadium that is a notoriously difficult place to get a result. At times, Chivas rode their luck, with Monterrey missing a couple of golden opportunities, but the team didn’t stop working to grind out the precious three points.

The opposite was true the week before at home against San Luis in a game Chivas dominated for large periods only to let their foot off the gas and for the lowly visiting side to end the game looking most likely to grab a winner.

The boost of confidence should now help propel Chivas up the table, at least on paper if you look at the team’s recent history of huge swings in form.

Suddenly, upcoming games against Puebla away, Leon at home, Pumas away and then Pachuca in the Estadio Omnilife seem very winnable.

They certainly seem less daunting than a visit to one of Mexico's highest security prisons, which may not necessarily have been the case without Saturday's vital victory.

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Tom Marshall has been based in Guadalajara since 2008 and has specialized in writing about Mexican football ever since. As well as contributing to ESPN Insider's Mexico National Team blog (@ESPNtri), he co-hosts The Mexican Soccer Show podcast and can be found on Twitter @MexicoWorldCup

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