The Aguilas scored a major win over bitter rival Chivas on Sunday night, but concerns still remain over team unity.GUADALAJARA, Mexico – As Chivas coach Benjamin Galindo spoke of the sense of injustice and impotence he felt at losing Sunday’s clasico nacional, America players interrupted by filing past blasting banda music.
The press conference paused as everyone in the room instantly turned round to see what the commotion was. Usually calm and collected, Galindo was visibly moved.
“In soccer, there is always revenge,” he stated, with venom in his voice. “There is always revenge.”
America’s players were rightly celebrating the victory, which, in the end, was reasonably comfortable thanks to two headed second-half goals from Raul Jimenez, but overstepped the mark in terms of respect, especially when the 2-0 scoreline in the Estadio Omnilife didn’t tell the whole story. Chivas lost three key players (Jorge Enriquez, Hector Reynoso and Marco Fabian) to injury and went down to 10 men in the 36th minute when Sergio Perez was shown his second yellow card.
Despite that, Chivas held its own for long stretches and started off the most impressive team. During the first half it was Chivas which looked the better side, having more possession and going close to opening the scoring on a number of occasions.
America, on the other hand, huffed and puffed but was second best while both teams had 11 men. There was a serious lack of cohesion between the midfield and the forwards. Coach Miguel Herrera implied as much in his post-match press conference.
The charismatic Herrera was naturally in good mood when asked if the manner of the victory took some of the icing off the cake for him and his team in by far Mexico’s most-hyped game.
“I’m not a chef,” came the response.
But aside from the jokes, there remains much work to do both on and off the field for the Aguilas moving forward, with the biggest issue being Christian Benitez. The Ecuadoran had one of those evenings where he didn’t look like he really wanted to be there and left the field as the other America players continued celebrating.
Arguably the best player in the Liga MX, Benitez flirts between being arrogantly brilliant and someone who can upset the apple cart. In America’s last game against San Luis, he failed to shake hands with incoming Narciso Mina and caused more controversy.
“The team is fine, it is very united,” contested Herrera. “Everyone goes after Chucho (Benitez).”
That is only partially true. Benitez brings a lot of controversy on himself with his hot-headed nature. The truth is that he doesn’t look to be enjoying his game and that is worrying for America.
But while Benitez’s shoddy performance and attitude was a cause for concern, Jimenez was the opposite. He played brightly and with a smile on his face. Americanistas can be assured that even if Benitez leaves the club this summer, Jimenez is a more than capable replacement and one who is unlikely to be so problematic.
It is no secret America’s dressing room was a shattered place before Miguel Herrera came in and injected it with a large dose of enthusiasm back in November 2011. Incidents like players barging into the Chivas press conference and having a star player that looks unhappy are gentle reminders that as much as the atmosphere has improved at America, old demons are still floating around beneath the surface.
Winning the clasico means America is almost qualified for the playoffs, but whether the squad will remain united as we head towards the business end of the season is Herrera’s biggest concern.
Follow TOM MARSHALL on or shoot him an email