The team’s first championship in more than a decade could just be the first of many under the talented Argentine’s watch
For the first time in more than a decade Chivas are champions, taking a 4-3 aggregate victory over Tigres to claim the crown and tie America with 12 Mexican titles.
The final was a showcase of Mexican soccer, and while there rarely passes a moment without controversy in Liga MX (Tigres will feel a late penalty shout should’ve been given when Luis Enrique Santander declined to call an apparent foul in the box), the Guadalajara side escaped from a tough final as the victor.
Chivas coach Matias Almeyda deserves much of the credit for the historic Copa MX-Liga MX double. After his game plan in the first leg functioned for much of the match, his side once again was able to keep Tigres from finding opportunities through the middle as Orbelin Pineda and Jose Juan “Gallito” Vazquez held down the midfield with Carlos Salcido sitting behind to cause headaches for Andre-Pierre Gignac, who had punished Chivas’ lack of focus late in the first leg.
The team looks set up for more success with the Argentine at the helm. The River Plate legend has taken to Mexico quickly, winning multiple Copa MX titles and now adding the league title to the trophy cabinet. His tactical adaptability has been welcome in Mexico where too often managers roll out the same game plan regardless of opponent or their own team’s strength, Almeyda has shown flexibility. And his willingness to play young players alongside veterans also has been welcome, especially in a Chivas team that had strayed from its philosophy of using homegrown players.
The narrative of “cartera vs. cantera” or “wallet vs. youth system” was never quite accurate. Yes, Tigres spent huge money to bring in Gignac, Javier Aquino and Eduardo Vargas from European clubs. But Chivas hasn’t exactly been thrifty. The team’s Mexican-only policy ties its hands in the transfer market, forcing it to shell out big for players like Pulido, Rodolfo Pizarro and even Salcido.
The confidence the former defensive midfielder gave to Pulido helped bring back a player who could easily have shut down. After his bizarre kidnapping saga in the summer compounded what already had been a frustrating situation for the forward, leaving Tigres under acrimonious circumstances and seeing only sporadic time in Greece, Pulido scored once in each leg of the final and looks ready to lead the line for the Mexico national team’s alternate side heading to the Gold Cup.
But Almeyda also has leaned on players who did come through the Chivas system. Angel Zaldivar, Carlos Fierro and Javier “La Chofis” Lopez at various times this season provided dynamic wing play while Michael Perez has provided center midfield help as recently as Thursday’s first leg.
It looks like the next group will also yield a bounty. Chivas’ U-20 side recently topped Club America to win the title at that age level, another mark that signifies that the club that once prided itself on making up the core of the national team can once again dream of not only being the most popular team in the country but also being the most successful club in Mexico.
Fans will head to the Minerva to celebrate, but if the team maintains its renewed commitment to youth development supplemented with top buys, it may not be the last time during Almeyda’s tenure the city center is full of Chivas fans enjoying the good times once again.