On Chivas and Pumas…

Posted on October 30, 2012 14:30

It has been 10 years since Jorge Vergara took over as Chivas owner. In this Decada Vergara, the mercurial owner has certainly done his level best to shape Chivas in his own image. Regardless, Chivas have been able to win exactly one championship, which is the same amount they won in the ten years previous, and the ten years previous to that.

Should Vergara be ultimately judged by what he has (or hasn’t) added to the trophy case, however?

Even though the Decada Vergara has only brought in one trophy, the Chivas has made several significant improvements. At the top of the list is Vergara’s commitment to the Chivas youth system, which has generated a bushel of quality players who have made their mark in Chivas and beyond. At one point, Chivas were transferring quite a few of their most talented players, and some of their fans were wondering if they were becoming the next Atlas, their cross-town rivals who, despite developing great players, were unable to generate any kind of on-the-field success.

The cynic, though, will point out that it is Vergara’s unwillingness to pay a premium, the “Chivas excise”, if you will, on local talent in the league to maintain the tradition of fielding an all-Mexican squad. He did dip in to the talent pool last summer for the first time in many moons at the behest of his new Dutch Soccer Tzar, Johan Cruyff, to collect midfielder Luis Perez and striker Rafa Marquez Lugo; the latter has almost single-handedly kept Chivas in the post season hunt with his crucial goals.

Patience is not a virtue that has been associated with Vergara, as he has hired and fired over a dozen coaches in his ten years at the helm. His latest moves then, are in stark contrast to his precedent. Vergara brought in Cruyff to make all futbol related decisions, including the hiring of the coach, another Dutchman Jon Van Schip. The players have struggled to adapt to the “new way”, and have had some setbacks that would have surely caused heads to roll in the not so distant past. They are going to stick with it, though.

This is, apparently, a new version of Chivas. One that is willing to endure short-term failures, like not making the knockouts of the Concachampions, for long-term results. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Another team who made wholesale changes to their philosophy in the off-season was Pumas. They brought in a neophyte in Alberto García Aspe to run the soccer operations, they spent money in the transfer market for the first time in years, and brought in a new coach, Joaquín Del Olmo. Del Olmo had been previously fired at mid-season with Xolos, and did not last that much longer with Pumas. García Aspe then tagged Mario Carrillo, a coach who was never going to be a good fit, systematically benched the summer signings, and was constantly jeered, whistled and harassed by the Ultras. It was only a matter of time before he would cease to be the coach, and he was let go after losing the Chilango Derby to Club América.

In a matter of a few months, Pumas went from an exemplary soccer institution to a Liga MX also ran. Patience has always been on of the hallmarks of the clubs. It has to be, considering their continued commitment to their youth system. Coaches’ tenures were measured in years, not games, which is sets themselves apart in Liga MX. García Aspe’s inexperience as a general manager has left Pumas floundering, and had he not fired Carrillo, there may have been a team a locker room mutiny.

There is always at least one team in Liga MX that ends up with 3 different managers on the payroll, and this time, much to Pumas fans’ chagrin, it turned out to be Pumas, and we have García Aspe to thank for that. It has only happened 3 times before in their history, and only once since the short-season era. It may sound like a lot, but remember, some teams do this almost every year. Chivas did it last year.

Amazingly, despite the turmoil both teams have endured so far this season, both teams still have very realistic chances of making the post-season. And we all know that anything can happen in a liguilla.

And that’s Liga MX for you.

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