Well it seems like Apertura 2016 ended not too long ago and things didn’t exactly end how I predicted. While I did predict that they would finish 4th in the table, I never expected them to be gone in the first round of the liguilla at the hands of archrival Club America. For everything great Matias Almeyda did with the team, ultimately,being eliminated by Club America eclipsed the majority of it. Yet, like the beginning of every Chivas season, there is renewed hope and optimism for the Clausura 2017 season.
Going into the season opener on Saturday against Pumas, Chivas has many reasons to avenge last season’s loss at the paws of Pumas and start off on the right foot (hoof?). A victory over a team that was in the liguilla last season will lay the groundwork for what can be achieved this season. Aside from that, the core of the team was kept together and the additions and departures that were made, fortified an already strong squad.
The biggest key departure in the offseason, “Gullit” Pena, was in all honesty better than any addition they could have made. His performance in Apertura 2016 was abysmal and Almeyda’s insistence on using him late in the season was a detriment to the team. On behalf of Chivas fans everywhere, good riddance.
Realistically this season includes two big additions; the first is Alan Pulido, who joined the club midseason in Apertura 2016 and managed to score 4 goals in 9 games. There is high expectancy for what Pulido will do this upcoming season after having just completed his first offseason with the team. The biggest issue that has plagued Chivas in the Almeyda era has been the inability to consistently score, Pulido must look to put an end to that if Chivas is to be successful. The other key addition that was made is the purchase of Pachuca midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro. Pizarro is largely considered one of Mexico’s brightest young talents. His addition will provide depth to an already crowded midfield, a problem Almeyda will hopefully handle based on level of play and not size of transfer fee.
Pumas on the other hand were quite the surprise in Apertura 2016, under first time manager Paco Palencia. The team managed to finish 6th in the table, but also made an early exit at the paws of current champs Tigres, all while sporting the league’s best kit. Palencia will be looking to capitalize on the success achieved last season and have brought on Chilean striker Nicolas Castillo from Universidad Catolica as a strong reinforcement. For Pumas, being able to come away with any points on Saturday night at Estadio Chivas will be considered a step in the right direction, although they haven't beat Chivas away from home in three decades.
In terms of talent, depth and playing style, it is not unrealistic to expect Chivas to make a deep a run in the liguilla. The additions that were made, along with the continued strong play from the likes of Orbelin Pineda, Isaac Brizuela and Eduardo “La Chofis” Lopez (you guys didn’t think I would forget of Chof) provide a strong sense of optimism for the upcoming season. I expect them to finish in the top four in the league and reaching the semifinal of la Liguilla isn’t out of the question. In order for all this to take place, Chivas will have to start taking advantage of their home field, a victory over Pumas will relieve some pressure off of Almeyda’s herd.
Date: Saturday, January 7
Time: 7:06 PM Pacific, 9:06 PM Central, 10:06 PM Eastern
Venue: Estadio Chivas
Television: United States - Univision, Univision Deportes Network;