The Apertura 2016 didn't exactly start out how Chivas had planned. Following an own goal by Jair Pereira in the 56th minute, Chivas were not able to recover and suffered the first loss of the season in Cuidad Universitaria at the hands (or paws) of Pumas.
Chivas had a chance to tie the game in stoppage time when the referee called a handball in the box on Pumas' defender, Luis Quintana, awarding Chivas a penalty kick. In a "ball don't lie moment" Carlos "Gullit" Peña stepped up to take the penalty and kicked it softly to the left of Pumas goalkeeper Alejandro Palacios, who deflected it and saved his team from giving up the draw.
Certainly not the result that was expected from Chivas, but a lot of credit must be given to Pumas whose game plan was executed perfectly, and they were able to neutralize the Chivas attack throughout the match. Matias Almeyda must regroup the team quickly because the games will not get any easier from here on out, and next week, Chivas will be hosting last year's runner-up and title contender, Monterrey.
Here are my three takeaways from the match:
1) Gullit Peña
Was yesterday's bad game an anomaly, or was it the culmination of a series of bad performances dating back to last season for one of the highest paid players in Liga MX? To the casual fan, yesterday might have just been a bad day for Gullit, but for the fan that has been watching since last season, Gullit's performance has steadily declined. Sunday afternoon in CU was the third penalty kick he has missed dating back to the final game of last season where he got lucky and scored off hi initial miss.
It's not just about missing the penalty, because like Matias Almeyda said after the game, "even Messi missed a penalty kick." The penalty is just the cherry on top on a series of bad performances. On the field, he looks slower than the rest of his team, and his lack of speed doesn't allow him to recover lost balls. He is imprecise with his passing,doesn't drop back to defend, and disappears for large chunks of the game. Now, I'm not saying he should be benched, but I think following his steady decline since last season, Almeyda should start considering it—especially with a promising young talent like La Chofis on the bench. It is understandable why a move like that would be difficult for Almeyda since the club invested so much money on Gullit, but sometimes you have to cut your losses early enough and get back to winning.
2) Matias Almeyda
I wouldn't put Sunday's loss on Almeyda. In fact, I loved the aggressive posture he took once the team went down 1-0 by substituting out a center defensive midfielder to bring on a second forward in hopes of getting the equalizer. What I didn't like from Almeyda, however, was the lack of adjustments to the starting lineup and some of the players he brought on with his substitution. His decision to start Carlos Salcido over Gallito Vazquez affects the team in that Carlos Salcido is 36 years old, and while he does a very capable job, he requires the help of Orbelin Pineda. Pineda is a great box to box midfielder, but with a player like Gallito as center defensive midfielder, Pineda could stay up top next to Gullit because Gallito does a great job of recovering the ball in his half of the pitch. While Gallito is new to the team and is still adjusting to the system, he was also the biggest acquisition this offseason, and it is time start him.
When it came to the substitutions, I thought the removal of Isaac Brizuela was a mistake. Brizuela was having success attacking up the right wing. The move Almeyda should have made was to bring in Chofis for Gullit and leave Brizuela on the right, which would have made for a much quicker attack. Like I mentioned earlier, this loss is not on Almeyda, but now,he has to make the necessary adjustments moving forward to get the team on the right course.
3) Step Off The Ledge
It's only week 1 Chivas fans. Yes, I understand this was not the start you had hoped for, but there is still plenty of time for the team to get things right. Last season, this team didn't get their first victory until midway through the season and ended up finishing in 5th place. What happened in Cuidad Universitaria was a bit of a fluke. I'm not discrediting Pumas for the performance they had, but for a team to get an own goal and miss a penalty in the same game, it is a very rare occurrence. I understand the schedule will only get more difficult, and the team will be without four players (two actual starters) for a few game mid-season. However, that shouldn't be discouraging. This roster is as deep as it has ever been, and Almeyda has shown that he will make the necessary modifications to the roster to get the team playing how he wants them to play. So before you start calling for firings or hashtagging who you want out, take a deep breath and remember that it is only Week 1.