Tonight, Chivas de Guadalajara look to keep their momentum going in the CONCACAF Champions League as they take on New York Red Bulls. Chivas coach Matias Almeyda stated earlier this semester that his attention would be focused on winning the CCL. He stood with that statement on Friday, resting important players like Alan Pulido, Carlos Cisneros, and most importantly, Chivas’ best defender in Jair Pereira.
With 7 to 15 in the Liga MX table being separated by a mere 2 points, a Liguilla spot is a realistic possibility for el Rabaño Sagrado, but as Friday showed, Almeyda and Co. have no interest in backing down from their desire to win their first international title in decades. Here are four keys that Chivas must focus on to advance in the CCL.
1. Pizzaro must start in front
Rodolfo Pizzaro with the Mexico National Team jersey... look, that’s a whole other story. Pizzaro with the Chivas jersey on, however, is the best Mexican midfielder playing in Liga MX. He showed just how lethal he was against Morelia this past Friday, with a brace (your favorite could never). It’s pertinent he not only plays, but starts up front with either Pulido or whoever Almeyda decides to line up next to him. If they play something tighter than a 4-4-2 formation, then at least expect him to be right behind Pulido in a center attacking midfielder position. Let’s just hope Chivas don’t wear the Mexico’s National Team colors kit.
2. Ball control is important but not at the cost of goals for Chivas.
If someone were to take a look at the ball possession stats for Chivas, it is usually in the 60% range in favor of Guadalajara. Those stats look good, but what they don’t tell you is Chivas’ propensity for conceding goals in transition, especially when the defenders are playing near the halfway line of the field. New York Red Bulls are very early in their MLS season, but they have players like Bradley Wright-Phillips, who are more than capable of exploiting Chivas on the counter. It can make a long night for Chivas goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota, especially if Chivas defender Jair Pereira isn’t in game shape.
3. Stop leaving it for the second leg
Chivas in the first legs of competitions aren’t too convincing , whether it be against the lowly Cibao FC or against the more highly rated Seattle Sounders. Maybe it’s the fact they know it’s a two-game affair, maybe they were coming on the back of a physical game against a Liga MX opponent, or maybe they don’t perform until their backs are against the wall. Either way, Chivas can’t continue to do that and expect to be saved by the second leg at home as they have in the two prior rounds.
4. Let Oswaldo Alanis start and don’t allow Orbelin Pineda to play.
Oswaldo Alanis looks similar to German defender Matt Hummels, but one thing separates them, Oswaldo Alanis sucks at defense. What Oswaldo does do, though, is inspire confidence in the offense. His beautiful free kick against the Seattle Sounders in the last round of the CCL jumpstarted el Rebaño Sagrado’s offense and gave them a confidence boost when things could have gone the wrong way for Chivas.
Orbelin Pineda, on the other hand, has nothing to offer a title contending team. When he can string a couple passes together and come up with magic it’s amazing. But when he loses ball possession from trying to take on three players, it gives Chivas’ older defenders an impossible job to do on transition. With defenders as old as Jair Pereira and Carlos Salcido those are risks Chivas can’t afford to make.
What do you think? What other keys should Chivas focus on to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League Final?