When Matias Almeyda took over the managerial reins at Chivas in 2015, he inherited a team that focused almost exclusively on playing a defensive game. Under former Chivas manager, “Chepo” De la Torre, fans had grown accustomed to narrow wins. The team would buckle down, concentrating their efforts on defense, and would only attack when the team was dominating possession. However, Almeyda has brought a more attacking style and it has worked well thus far…
Chivas under Chepo De la Torre
To be fair to De la Torre, this style of play worked well, for a time, as he was able to lead Chivas to a Copa MX final, losing to Puebla, and a semifinal Liguilla appearance, where the team was knocked out by eventual champions Santos Laguna. Problems soon started to emerge, however, as the team suffered a winless streak that would see the team plunging down the league table the following season.
De La Torre’s Chivas side was the type of team where the priority was to not lose rather than to win games. They often preferred to sit back in their own defensive third attempting to earn a single point rather than to try and go for the win, and although it is beneficial to be difficult to beat, this style wasn’t always the most appreciated by Chivas fans.
This approach would have been accepted if Chivas were in the middle of a relegation battle, but due to the complex Liga MX relegation system, a league win against Puebla the season before had put fears of relegation behind the team. Additionally, fans wanted more than just draws after the relatively good season Chivas had enjoyed previously and the fans wanted to see the team improve.
Consequently, De la Torre was sacked and Matias Almeyda arrived from Argentina in the hopes of changing the club’s fortunes for the season and bringing a new, more adventurous style.
The arrival of Matias Almeyda
Since his arrival in 2015, the Argentine has been given enough time and resources to mold the team into an attacking unit, one that plays exciting and entertaining football. His signings of young players such as Orbelin Pineda and Rodolfo Pizarro as well as the promotion of players from the academy, such as “Chofis” Lopez and Angel Zaldivar, are testaments to his commitment to a style of play centered around pace in the attack.
In effect, Almeyda has changed the team for the better and the team has now become a constant showing in the Liga MX postseason playoffs: the Liguilla.
Unfortunately, for Almeyda and Chivas however, the team has had to contend with their rivals Club America in the previous two Liguillas, knocked out on both occasions by their most hated rivals. This has led to a sense of stagnation within the minds of some Chivas fans as the team has struggled to reach the second round of Liguilla fixtures since Almyeda’s arrival at the club.
That doesn’t mean that Almyeda hasn’t had success. He has. His success has come in the form of cups rather than league titles and what the fans really want now, more than ever, is a league title. One that will take El Rebano Sagrado level on league titles with Club America.
As mentioned earlier, Almeyda has really tweaked and molded the team to his liking and has the team playing better than they have in years. Moreover, he seems to have lit a spark within the minds of the players. Every Chivas player on the pitch seems to know what they are playing for. This is largely due to Almeyda hammering the club’s policy of only fielding Mexican players into the minds of his men.
This was a mentality that was lacking with previous managers. Maybe, it was that many of the previous managers were Mexican and had taken the club’s policy for granted and never used it as a tool to motivate players. Maybe, it took an outsider, a foreigner, to come into the club to make the players realize what made Chivas different.
After all a Chivas player really isn’t playing for just another club.
What Chivas represents, as it always has, is a Mexican national team playing in the local league, and Almeyda gets that. In the videos released by the club of the team’s pregame and half-time talks, it’s not uncommon to see Almeyda reminding his players that it is them (the Chivas players) against everyone else and that it’s their responsibility to prove to everyone that a team of all Mexicans can win games in a league increasingly influenced by foreign players.
In his two years at Chivas, Almeyda has changed the team from the hyper-defensive unit it was under De la Torre. Now, Chivas have become the kind of team that will come roaring back from two goals down in the 75th minute to win the match three-two by the end of extra time.
The team is young up top and has experience at the back. When Chivas are at 100% it becomes easy to see them as a team capable of lifting the Liga MX title. Sadly, injuries have been the one thing holding Chivas back recently, but now, with Zaldivar training again, and Pizarro’s introduction in the second half against Atlas on Sunday, it seems that Chivas’ players are starting to get healthy again at the right time.
Up next for Chivas in the Liguilla semifinals will be Toluca, a team celebrating their 100-year anniversary as a club. Both teams will be desperate to move onto the final, and both will be happy to play each other rather than red hot Tigres.
The only worry for Chivas at the moment should be their lack of goals. While the Goats were able to get past Atlas in the previous round, they only did so through the slightest of margins. What ultimately decide the tie is whether Chivas’ returning players will be ready for the matches ahead.