By Dan Price
Chivas fans were left desolate after their aggregate 3-0 loss to Santos Laguna in the playoff semi-finals, but despite the disappointing end to their campaign, it’s still been a massive success.
Reading the comments on Twitter last night, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Chivas had grossly underachieved this season. Amongst the (totally natural) outpouring of pain, there were comments criticising Chepo de la Torre’s tactics throughout the season, criticising their first leg performance, and lamenting that more should have been achieved.
It’s fanciful thinking, perhaps borne out of a longing to return to the top of the Mexican game rather than based in reality. Chivas have just two league titles since 1987, and only three since 1970. The only man who has come closest to restoring their dominance is the man currently in charge, and to lash out at his (albeit sometimes negative) approach is short-sighted.
It is well-documented that Chivas were in a dire situation when the Clausura kicked off. Only a 2-1 win over Morelia on the final weekend of the Apertura season prevented them starting 2015 in last place in the ‘Tabla de Descenso’ (Relegation Table), and fans were being confronted with the very real possibility of second tier football in the 2015-16 season.
Instead of fighting a bitter four-way relegation battle, Chivas silenced their critics with a string of good results.
They lost just one in ten between early February and early May, and have beaten Monterrey, Cruz Azul, Atlas, Toluca, Pumas, and Pachuca this season. They only lost five games – the third fewest in the league, and only conceded sixteen goals – also the third fewest.
On top of their fine league form, they also enjoyed a run to the Copa MX final,ultimately losing 4-2 to Puebla.
This is arguably the only area where Chepo deserves some criticism after he opted to field a mainly second string side and thus forego what would have been Chivas’ first trophy since the 2009 Interliga. Indeed, with Santos Laguna now in the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League, a victory in that game would have also given them a spot in the 2016 Copa Libertadores.
Nonetheless, it shouldn’t take the shine of a fantastic five months for the Guadalajara club. The manner of the 3-0 loss at home to Santos on Sunday night would have hurt, but for the first time in years Chivas fans can look forward to next season with a sense of eager anticipation.
Vucetich the hero
Underestimate Victor Vucetich at your peril. After he masterminded a wonderful 2-0 win in the second leg last night, Queretaro advanced to the final thanks to their higher seeding.
They will now have home advantage in the second leg of the final, and with their passionate fan base should now be considered the favourites for the title.
Santos will be a mean test – they’ve kept three consecutive clean sheets – but Queretaro seem like a team with the momentum and the belief needed to win a trophy.
The final will take place on Thursday and Sunday.