In 2002, Jorge Vergara gained ownership of one of the most prestigious and popular football clubs in Mexico and North America. A prosperous businessman, Vergara sought to continue the long history of success at Chivas while also building the team's brand and expanding the already colossal fanbase. Now ten years into the "Vergara Era," the club has become notable not for success on the field, but for it's revolving door of coaches. This week Ignancio Ambriz took the reins as the team's fourteenth coach in the past decade, making him the newest addition to the long list of managers serving under Vergara.
The Vergara era kicked off in 2002 with a coach already in place. The Argentinian Oscar Ruggeri had begun coaching Chivas in the "Verano 2001" season, and continued on after Vergara became owner. During one of his seasons on the sideline he led Chivas to thirteen straight games without a loss, but ended the season horribly by losing five games, including an early knockout from the liguilla. Vergara soon gave him the boot after Chivas failed to advance to the postseason. The first appointed coach in the Vergara era was newcomer Daniel Guzman. Daniel "el Travieso" Guzman was a symbol of Chivas during the 90’s, and took charge as manager of the team in the 2002 Apertura. Guzman's tenure would not last long, though. By the end of that same season, Guzman was sacked for his irregular results.
The Clausura 2003 brought Eduardo "Yayo" De La Torre, another newcomer in the coaching world. De La Torre had a decent season with a not so great ending, losing to Morelia and being eliminated in the liguilla. De La Torre continued on the bench for Chivas into the 2003 Apertura season, but did not end it. Losing six games in the first ten matches, De La Torre was sent packing.
The position was then handed over to Hans Westerhof, a Dutch youth coach who was involved with the Chivas youth system. Surprisingly, Hans did fairly well, leading Chivas to the 2004 Clausura final against Pumas in his second season. In a hard-fought final match, Pumas edged out Chivas in penalties and won that season's title, a devastating blow for Chivas fans everywhere.
For the Apertura 2004, there was a new manager leading the "sacred flock," and this time it was Benjamin Galindo’s turn at the helm in Guadalajara. "El Maestro" lasted two whole season with Chivas, achieving average success with the team. His most notable performance proved to be the 2005 Copa Libertadores, where Chivas eliminated the perennial favorites Boca Juniors of Argentina in the quarterfinals, before falling short against Atletico Paranaense in the semis. In the Apertura 2005, Galindo lasted three games before being tossed. For the next two games of the Apertura 2005, Juan Carlos Ortega stepped in as a temporary coach before being replaced by the eyebrow-raising choice of Xavier Azkargorta. The Spaniard was probably the most surprising managerial choice of the entire Vergara era. A man who had never managed in the Mexican league, Azkargorta also seemed to be completely out of touch with the Chivas philosophy. Not surprisingly, Azkargorta did not fare well, losing many games and failing to take Chivas to the Apertura 2005 liguilla.
The following season, Hans Westerhof made another appearance on the Chivas bench, filling in until a new manager was brought on board. Halfway through the 2006 Clausura, Jose Manuel "Chepo" de La Torre took over. Easily the most successful manager in the Vergara era, "Chepo" De La Torre gave Guadalajara their 11th star, by winning the 2006 Apertura championship. One of the youngest coaches ever to win the title in Mexico, De La Torre became a household name and quickly rose in stature, turning into one of the top coaches in the league. But as usual during Vergara's reign, things would ultimately turn sour.
After another liguilla appearance in the 2007 Clausura, De La Torre should have held a firm grasp on the position. Instead, he wouldn't make it through the next season. Typical of Vergara’s style his patience quickly ran thin, and by week ten of the Apertura 2007 Efrain Flores had taken over. Flores led Chivas to the liguilla twice, reaching as far as the semifinals in his first season. Flores would last until midway through the Clausura 2009 -- an eternity under Vergara -- before being replaced by Omar Arellano Sr. Arellano seemed to be the new man for the job, but ended up managing Chivas for only two games, winning one and drawing the other.
With Arellano’s phase cut extremely short, Vergara proceeded to make one of the worst decisions in his ten years as owner. Vergara decided to bring on Francisco Ramirez, a highly inexperienced manager who had only worked as an assistant under Ricardo Lavolpe. Ramirez did not meet the expectations, as if the fans had any, and by the following season was gone. This led to another shocking Vergara decision, as Raul Arias was handed the whistle. A defensive mastermind, ever faithful to his style, Arias tried to impose his ideology on a young offensive Chivas team. The instant negative reaction of fans, though, only increased the pressure and further highlighted Vergara's sometimes foolish decisions.
Vergara decided to go back to his home grown ideology in 2009, and by the end of the Apertura, Jose Luis "el Guero" Real took over as head coach. During the Bicentenario 2010, Real had his best performance, leading Chivas to eight consecutive wins. The season looked promising and Chivas looked stronger than ever, but then came the 2010 World Cup. Chivas lost five starters to the Mexico squad, which led to a devastating and sudden drop-off in the team's performance. Chivas held on to end the season in first place, but was quickly knocked out of the liguilla in the first round. Even with a young and limited squad, Real also managed to take Chivas all the way to the Copa Libertadores final that year, ultimately falling short against Sao Paulo of Brazil.
Real managed Chivas until this past season, when after an unfortunate slump of five games, Vergara decided to bring in someone new. With another somewhat controversial decision, Vergara decided that Fernando Quirarte would be the best option for the team. Though finishing out the Apertura 2011 in first place, Chivas had another disappointing exit in the liguilla, losing to eighth-seeded Queretaro in the first round.
Which brings us to the current Clausura 2012 season, where just three weeks in Quirarte is already long gone. Questioned for his slow progress with the team since the preseason, Quirarte proceeded to lose three consecutive games to open the year. After the loss against newly-promoted Club Tijuana, Quirarte thought it best to resign.
Now in comes Ignacio Ambriz, a coach who brings experience in the Mexican Primera with San Luis, and also plenty of international experience as assistant coach for Javier Aguirre at teams like Osasuna and Atletico de Madrid. Ambriz stated that being selected to coach Chivas has been like winning the lottery, noting the importance of the team and the prestigious name it carries. He has signed a contract until just the end of the Clausura, though a very optimistic Ambriz confidently stated that he will be staying longer than one season.
The Vergara era has been an age of constant turnover at manager -- a perpetually spinning carousel of the Chivas coaching position. In a span of only ten years, fourteen different coaches have come in and out of the institution. Ignacio Ambriz knows his time at Chivas is indeed precious. He has the opportunity to be either one of the fortunate ones that brings glory to the club, or one that ends up being just another name on a long list. Does Ambriz have what it takes, and if so, will Vergara give him enough time to succeed? Stay tuned as the always-entertaining Vergara Era ride continues.
Chivas managers during the past ten years:
Eduardo de La Torre
Hans Westerhof (2 different occasions)
Juan Carlos Ortega (2 games)
Jose Manuel Del La Torre (Championship)
Omar Arellano (2 games)
Jose Luis Real