Call it a Dutch smokescreen.
The tactic of creating a disturbance in an irrelevant area to distract attention from more important events elsewhere may be typical of politics in Mexico, but it seems Chivas coach John Van't Schip has been studying up on the technique since arriving.
How else to explain, on the eve of a vital clash against Tigres Tuesday night in Guadalajara, the decision to separate Julio Nava and Michel Vasquez from the team?
Better said, the decision to cut Nava and Vasquez. The players weren’t sent to the reserve team, and they weren’t separated from training to see how things would pan out. They were cut.
In fact, both players showed up to training on Monday only to be turned away from the compound, told they were no longer part of the plans. Indiscipline didn’t figure in; it was purely a technical decision by the coach.
The events are disappointing on many counts. Firstly, it’s surprising to see a league with lofty ambitions like Liga MX allow its players to be treated in such a humiliating fashion. While the economic details weren’t disclosed - both players will likely make out fine financially and find new teams soon enough - having players handed their walking papers midseason is highly unprofessional.
That also reflects poorly on Chivas, an institution which should hold its players in the highest esteem, in order to remain consistent with its values of developing the Mexican game.
Instead, two teammates were sent packing, paying for the broken dishes of their teammates who came up short over the weekend in their visit to Pachuca.
It’s a move much more reminiscent of something like, say, the Guatemalan second division, where the omnipresent threat of cutting teammates always serves as the most basic motivational tool for low level teams that just can’t seem to come out on the right side of the scoreboard.
But the idea that such an action can be motivational to a team is ridiculous. Chivas’ senior players fought hard against the move. Their demands went unheeded, sewing the seeds for mutiny down the road - which will be easy to understand when it comes.
Harder to believe is that anyone who ever played soccer at the professional level (van’t Schip did, at a very high level) would think that seeing teammates unjustly separated would be anything but de-motivational for a struggling group of players.
The last thing a team needs when things aren’t going well is the threat hanging over them of seeing one of their teammates lose his job over a bad result. In fact there’s hardly a better way to heap undue pressure on players that don’t need it.
It’s bad enough that Chivas has failed to convert three crucial penalties this season -- plays that, had they gone the other way, would have Guadalajara among the Liguilla-bound instead of languishing in 15th place.
Such a small margin can mean the difference at this level between success and failure. It shouldn’t be the difference, however, between a player keeping or losing his job.
Imagine the pressure next time Miguel Ponce or anyone else lines up for a result-determining PK, knowing that not only points but the livelihood of a teammate could hang in the balance.
As for van’t Schip, his time is running out. Though Chivas beat Tigres 2-1 on Tuesday, maneuvers like this will do little to delay that, given the mediocre play since the Dutchman took the reigns.
But the problems at Chivas go deeper than the coach, as witnessed by one glance at the cumulative table. Chivas sits 13th in the percentage table - a cumulative result of three years of work - ahead of just San Luis, Atlante, Puebla, Atlas and Queretaro.
That company, more than anything, tells the tale of how deep the crisis is in Guadalajara. Trying to blame it all on a pair of fringe players or correct things with unjust cuts simply won’t stick. Chivas fans can prepare for more trouble ahead.
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