With another Clausura in the books for Chivas, it’s time to assess what worked and what didn’t for El Rebaño Sagrado. While the season got off to a rocky start and ended in painful defeat, fans can look back on this Clausura and take solace in that there were signs of long-term improvement for the team.
With the influx of new talent such as Orbelin Pineda and Carlos "Gullit" Peña, fans entered the season with high hopes. Unfortunately, they had to sit through six draws and two losses prior to savoring their first victory of the tournament. After that mediocre run, Chivas would go on a tear to end the season with the fifth seed in the Liguilla. Their only loss during their season closing run came against the Aguilas—2-1 at the Estadio Omnilife.
It’s also worth noting that there was a new sheriff running the show for El Rebaño: this was Matías Almeyda’s first full tournament coaching the club. The Argentinian had prior managerial experience from guiding River Plate’s resurgence to Argentina’s first division, but he was still new to Liga MX.
The dramatic midseason turnaround makes one think that Chivas might be on to something special. Here are a couple of key points of what went right and what went wrong in this past roller coaster ride of a tournament for Almeyda’s men.
Internal Competition Breeds Results
Chivas’ lineup to end the Clausura is quite different from the one that saw them open up against Veracruz in late January. At the goalkeeper position, Rodolfo Cota supplanted José Antonio Rodríguez. Half of the back line underwent a facelift with Raúl López and Miguel Ponce being swapped out for Edwin Hernández and Jesús Sánchez. Changing a line-up due to injuries one thing, but this was a case of some players outperforming the others. The club’s reversal of fortune towards the end of the season is evidence of this.
Managerial Recognition And Technical Prowess
A successful team must excel on two personnel fronts: managers and players. Having previously mentioned healthy competition within the team, Almeyda seems to have figured out what works and what doesn’t for his side. He didn’t play favorites and recognized good form with starts and minutes for his players. He wasn’t stubborn about changing his line-up and was quite keen on when certain players were excelling. Perhaps the greatest testament to his positive presence in the club is his absence during their second leg 2-1 loss in the Liguilla quarterfinal tie against America.
New Talent Making An Impact
On many occasions, a player signs a lucrative contract with a club and underperforms. This was not necessarily the case with Chivas’ two most notable acquisitions for this tournament—Carlos "Gullit" Peña and Orbelín Pineda. Peña led the team with seven goals in the tournament while Pineda chipped in with three—adding another goal in the second leg against America at the Estadio Azteca. What’s especially impressive about Pineda’s case is the fact that he made his impact on a crucial stage at such a young age.
This is a problem that should remedy itself over time. Chivas’ has a bright future, which bodes well for the club, but still means it will have to suffer some growing pains. Aside from tests of maturity and morale, Almeyda, being new to Liga MX, and his men perhaps were undone by their inexperience. This was most notable in their quarterfinal defeat to America when Chivas substituted young players with little to no Liguilla experience. America was sending seasoned veterans on to the pitch from their bench, who had a better idea of what position their team was in and how to better execute their game plan.
Minimal Production From Forwards
Omar Bravo and Ángel Zaldívar each scored once through the entire Clausura. Such paltry production won’t cut it at any level. Zaldívar has a bright future and Bravo is nothing short of a club icon, but this team is only poised to make serious noise in the next Apertura with strong play up front. There have already been murmurs as to what negotiations are being made to solve the problem.
Players’ Drop Of Form In High Stakes
This one may be a bit disputable, but the case can be made that it is a serious cause for concern. It’s especially alarming when the leading goal scorer for the club severely underperforms in a crucial rivalry game like the Clasico Nacional. Gullit wasn’t the only disappointment for the majority of the quarterfinal: Isaác Brizuela and Omar Bravo were both ghosts. It could be a credit to America’s game plan to stop certain players or a testament to Almeyda’s importance to the team. In any case, one hopes this is not a disturbing trend that continues.