Manuel Veth –
Club Deportivo Guadalajara, better known as Chivas (the Goats), have not won a Mexican championship since their 2006 Apertura title. Given that they are one of the two most supported clubs in Mexico (the other is Club Amércia) eleven years without a national championship may as well be an eternity.
Last night, however, there were signs that their title drought in the league could come to an end. Chivas won their second Copa MX title in two years when they beat Monarcas Morelia in a penalty shootout at the Estadio Chivas.
Following the Copa MX celebration, there were several voices who declared that Chivas should now aim for a double by also winning the Liga MX Clausura, which would effectively end the eleven-year wait for a national championship. At the same time, Chivas head coach Matías Almeyda was adamant that the Copa MX title has little impact on the Liga MX.
Almeyda’s comments have to be taken with a grain of salt, however. Winning the title can, of course, set free the sort of emotional energy that is needed in order to win the gruelling Liguilla in Liga MX. At the same time, Almeyda must have also realized that Chivas were far from convincing in the Copa MX final.
Chivas can take positives and negatives from the Copa MX Final
It is true that Chivas were dominating the Monarcas for the entire game but, at the same time, it took the lottery of penalties to see off Morelia. Chivas will have to do much better in the playoffs against the likes of Tigres, Monterrey, Tijuana, and Club América if they want to have a good chance of ending their Liga MX title drought.
With three games to go in Liga MX, and with Guadalajara sitting in the third spot, just one point behind league leaders Toluca, in the regular season winning the cup could spark the kind of momentum that could make the difference in the Liguilla. In fact, there was a real buzz about the Chivas Stadium on Wednesday with the fans widely celebrating the Copa MX title.
— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) April 20, 2017
Chivas are a special club in the constellation of Mexican clubs. Similar to Athletic Bilbao, who only allow Basques to play for their first team, in Spain, C.D. Guadalajara only field Mexican-born players in their squad. This means that Chivas, unlike other clubs in the Liga MX, cannot dip into the foreign player pool in order to improve their squad.
On the one hand, this has meant that Chivas are one of the biggest producers of Mexican-born players—Bundesliga stars Chicharito, and Marco Fabián, come from Chivas’ youth academy. On the other, it means that the club has been outspent in recent years by the likes of Club América, Tigres, Tijuana, Santos Laguna, and Monterrey.
Chivas finished the Apertura in the fourth spot but were eliminated by América in the quarterfinals of the Liguilla. It was the second straight Liguilla in a row in which América eliminated their biggest rivals in the first round of the playoffs.
The Goats would like to avoid América in the first round of the Liguilla
Chivas will try to avoid meeting América in the first round of the playoffs this season. Their current position means that they would face sixth-placed Santos Laguna in the first round of the Liguilla. But the continuously changing nature of Liga MX and the tight playoff race in the league means that it is difficult to say where exactly every team will finish in the regular season.
Their recent playoff experiences and the two Copa MX titles could, however, help Chivas to finally make the next step in the Liga MX, and perhaps end their eleven-year national championship drought later in the spring. In addition, their recent title in the Copa MX suggests that Chivas now have the strength and depth to win a famous double.
This is especially highlighted by the fact that Chivas’ head coach, Almeyda, widely used a second string starting eleven in order to reach the final in the Copa MX. Those players, who were further down the pecking order, now add much-needed depth to the squad and will make Chivas much better prepared should the club be hit with injuries to key players.
Given the fact that the club may have lost striker Ángel Zaldívar to what appeared to be a serious ankle injury during the final, Almeyda may have to test his new found squad depth sooner rather than later. But with 22-year-old forward, Carlos Fierro, finally showing off his enourmous potential (he won the Adidas Bronze Ball during the U-17 FIFA World Cup, which was staged in Mexico) and with goal scorer, Alan Pulido, in good form, Chivas should be ready should Zaldívar miss a significant number of games.
While Guadalajara will not be the strong favourite for the Liga MX title this season, they certainly have the potential to challenge the big boys and go all the way to end their eleven-year title drought.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.