The downfall continues. What started out as a promising season under new head coach Javier Aguirre for Rayados, has slowly panned out into yet another mediocre and insipid series of performances which have managed to once again trick many into believing this team is a contender because of its place in the league table, when in reality, it is the farthest thing from it. Despite last night and Sunday night’s losses at home, Rayados are still unbelievably inside the top 4 with 25 points which ultimately clinch their spot directly into the QF round, avoiding that toss-up wild-card match. It won’t last for long though, as Santos have now pulled even in points, only trailing in goal difference, as well as León popping up just two points behind the regios.
‘Vuce’ proved to have his old team’s number once again, marking the second consecutive victory for him at the BBVA, after having defeated them in February 2020 as Querétaro head coach by the same 2-1 final. You could tell it was going to be a long night for assistant coach Antonio Amor’s squad (due to Aguirre’s suspension) right from the get-go. Chivas dominated early ball possession and even opportunities created. They put González’s goal in danger a few times before ultimately seizing on a huge botch by the porous Rayados defense.
In the 27th minute, Isaac Brizuela took the ball just inside the final third on the far right side, and thanks to lazy coverage by all of Monterrey’s players, he was allowed inside where he found a wide-open Sergio Flores just behind the half-circle. Flores one-touched the ball back to an again wide-open Brizuela, who easily disposed of a sliding Vegas, and thanks to a lucky touch as he slipped, he lobbed the ball past the outreached arms of González to put Chivas in front. Why he was allowed such a smooth, open entry is beyond me. Soon after, Antuna had another close goal encounter. And despite Rayados creating a couple approaches, none really put Chivas’ goal at risk during the rest of the first half.
After a great fake inside the box by Maxi Meza to then send in his cross and find a wide-open Janssen in the 62nd minute, the Dutch star missed the ball, but fortunately for him, hit his leg in just the right spot to still find direction on-goal to even things up 1-1. After that however, Rayados’ lackadaisical attitude resumed. They lacked clarity and play depth during the entire match and never really showed eagerness to win the game. A couple of close penalty calls reversed and a Luis Sánchez red card later, Chivas’ game-winner came on a very similar play to their first score. This time it was Alexis Vega who took the ball on the left side, and after moving inside, found Ángel Zaldívar who one-touched it with his back heal right back to Vega in between two Rayados defenders inside their own box who were incapable of altering the direction of the ball. Vega regained control of the ball and kissed it home with the inside part of his boot to give Guadalajara the definitive second goal.
What did this loss mean for Rayados? For one, it’s their third loss in their last five matches. And they’ve only lost four games all season. It also marked their 10th match out of the last 11 conceding at least a goal. This after starting the season with four consecutive clean sheets. Despite that, they still own the league’s second best defense with 11 goals conceded surprisingly (along with América and Pumas). But more than anything, it’s what doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. This team continues to navigate without direction and lose to subpar teams who aren’t even in wild-card positioning (below 12th overall). They have no head or feet, and in general, no clear identity of who they are or how they intend to approach their matches; very similar to what they looked like under Mohamed last season. Not to mention, Vucetich and Chivas have now entered playoff territory as they stand 9th overall with yesterday night’s victory.
The troubling part for Rayados is how they stumbled into the playoffs last season is just as they are looking now. Last semester, they finished 5th overall, missing out on the top 4 due to goal difference. That ended up being their ultimate demise, as they faced a gritty Puebla squad in the wild-card round, ending in a 2-2 draw. Rayados eventually lost the penalty shoot-out and were eliminated from the playoffs. Up next for Rayados is the Clásico Regio in Estadio Universitario against a reeling Tigres squad as well who are fighting for their playoff life. Should Rayados fail to win, they could be kicked out of the top 4 with a single game to go. The Clásico Regio is a must-win for both squads, and not just because it’s a derby.