The Goat Has Risen: Season in Review
A lot has changed in the past year, both in my personal life and at my beloved club. I married the love of my life, moved to a new place and, in a way, Chivas and it’s supporters were also swept off their feet by a passionate Argentine fellow who after almost half a season of cheek kisses invited us all up for coffee and took us on a wild ride to a liguilla.
“Chivas es un gigante que estaba dormido, de a poco se va poniendo de pie”— Matias Almeyda
It took two months for Chivas to get their first win of the Clausura 2016 season after 6 draws and 2 losses and I’m convinced that if Jorge Vergara still had Angelica whispering sweet nothings into his ear, he would’ve fired Matias Almeyda and repeated the cycle we’ve all come to know and hate. Instead, this newly-separated and spry Vergara 2.0 opted to remain patient. We all knew Dorados was going to be bad, but they ended up being so bad that Chivas had the luxury of working through their issues which paid dividends in the second half of the season. More on Jorge Vergara 2.0 later.
A different season review highlighted some important points over at FMF State of Mind, one of which I’d like to expand on because I believe it’s what has elevated the form of players many of us believed were DOA at the start of the season: the importance of internal competition.
The Curious Case of Dedos Lopez
This season we witnessed the resurgence of names many of us long ago considered mere bench fodder or no more than backups for the starting XI.
Players like Chapo Sanchez, Aris Hernandez, and backups like Rodolfo Cota and Chelo Zaldivar all won themselves the starting job after disappointing performances from those ahead of them on the depth chart.
This kind of internal competition theoretically breeds players anxious to please the manager and win back their rightful place on the field, not so in the case of one of my favorite stories of the past year, Raul Dedos Lopez. Lopez’ form took a dip at the start of the season and never fully recovered. As a result, Chapo Sanchez won the job at right back and it hit Dedos hard. To give you an idea of just how hard, during the Clasico Tapatio against Atlas in April, Lopez took a perfectly placed corner kick to find a leaping Jair Pereira’s head to score what would be the winning goal in the dying minutes of the match. The entire team minus the goalkeeper ran to the corner spot to celebrate, but Dedos was nowhere to be found.
Watch closely in the video and you’ll see Dedos trotting back to the middle of the field all by himself but, at the final whistle, Jair Pereira wasn’t gonna let a teammate feel down.
Como cuando no te emociona ganar un Clásico Tapatio… Perdiste la titularidad? Trabaja para recuperarla @raullg8 pic.twitter.com/y4GCxGTUqe
— м¹ℓαи ∞ ρş⑫ ღ (@iPS12_) April 18, 2016
Lopez would be sent to therapy a few days after that match and would start only once more (due to a Sanchez suspension) and come off the bench a couple more times before the season ended at the hands of the hated ones. As of this writing, Dedos has been transferred to Grupo Pachuca (which could mean he lands either at Leon or Pachuca) and even though #FingeringTime was short-lived, I wish him nothing but the best and hope that it’s merely a loan so he one day returns to bless us with those lovely crosses.
Now That’s What I Call a Refuerzo Volume 1
The signings of Orbelin Pineda and Carlos Gullit Peña had a great impact on the squad this season, although not immediately in the case of Peña. Once he got going, however, he ended the season as the club’s leading scorer and Pineda added his share of golazos for what I would call a very successful first season.
The midfield is in good hands with Michael Perez still developing and even though Carlos Salcido shows his age from time to time or bewilders us all with a wayward shot from distance, he did do well sometimes.
My favorite goal of the season from these two was Orbelin Pineda’s long distance goal in the second leg of the semis.
Relegation No More
I’m so happy that this incredibly sad chapter is behind us. If I’m being 100% honest, it was never in doubt but regardless of that, starting next season, Chivas will be somewhere in the middle of the pack in the relegation table so you haters can take your relegation talk and do this with it:
Top 5 Moments of the Season
5. Omar Bravo Gets Benched
It seemed like it would never happen but Almeyda finally pulled the trigger and benched an Omar Bravo who simply could not replicate last season’s results. Angel Zalvidar proved to be a better fit as a false 9 in Almeyda’s system and it’s no surprise the team began to find its stride with Chelo up top.
4. The First Win of the Season
In week 9, Gallos was the slump-buster we all needed them to be — both for the club and Gullit Peña who had been demoted to the bench and was in a slump of his own amid rumors he had arrived to practice drunk which turned out to be false. Nine weeks is a long time to wait for a win, but Chivas would never look back and go on a tear after a brief hiccup in the clasico nacional one week later.
3. Chofis’ Coming Out Party
Although a loss in the clasico is a tough pill to swallow, Chivas didn’t let that stop them in Monterrey where they handed a 3-1 loss to Rayados who were the top seeded club in the league and one that hadn’t lost in their new stadium since it opened in August of 2015. The big win wasn’t even the story of the night, however, that belonged to 21 year-old Javier Eduardo Lopez commonly referred to as La Chofis (for reasons that every TV broadcast has already informed you about lol).
Lopez debuted many moons ago in 2013 when Benjamin Galindo was still manager and with the guidance of Matias Almeyda he has a very bright future.
2. Destruction of Pumas
Losing to Pumas in 2004 has caused a deep trauma that I’ve yet to overcome so anytime Chivas can mollywhop them brings me great joy. A 4-0 win did just that and featured an Isaac Brizuela putting in an MVP worthy perfomance and a cameo by Chofis Lopez. I love that the uploader for these highlights left the build-up to the last goal by Lopez because it’s really great.
1. Last-minute Win Against Atlas
On this side of the border, Atlas fans are considered unicorns because they’re simply a myth. My interactions with them have been limited to online message boards and the occasional trip to Guadalajara, but even then they’ve been mostly bad. For some reason, a large part of the journalists that cover Chivas in Guadalajara are Atlas fans so you can sense the delight when they report on happenings at Chivas that in recent times haven’t been all that good. For that reason alone I find myself hoping Atlas don’t do well just to see what they’ll write. My wish has been granted more often than not.
We watched them lose, win, and draw. We watched them whip and nay nay. We saw some careers come to an end (possibly Bravo) and some only begin to flourish (Pineda, Chofis, Chapo Sanchez??). Most importantly, we saw a club find its football thanks to the patience of an owner who has always been known to make poorly thought out hasty decisions to allow a manager like Almeyda to work and have his players buy into his philosophies. Sensible signings in the offseason and his latest decision to leave Televisa behind and build his own network (ChivasTV.tv) are finally the kinds of decisions we expect from the visionary we were told Jorge Vergara was when he purchased the club. Let’s hope it’s not a short-lived moment of clarity because if these trends continue…