The Guadalajara side has struggled through rough tournaments lately, but there's reason for enthusiasm ahead of the Clausura, writes Jon Arnold.
Mexico's greatest club in stature has been coming up short a lot lately. During the past two years, Chivas has seen Club America pass it as the most successful Mexican team in terms of titles, and instead of fighting for a 12th league crown, the Guadalajara outfit finds itself more concerned with staying in the top division.
Last tournament saw manager Matias Almeyda take the reins. The Argentine didn't come in with a storied career under his belt but did find good results with Chivas. His style seemed to motivate Chivas, though Jose Manuel "Chepo" De La Torre didn't get much of a grace period.
Of course, there isn't much margin for error with the storied club one of a handful of teams facing relegation. It's pretty certain Chivas will avoid the drop, with Dorados the most likely club to go down and Monarcas also coming into the tournament in danger. Not only that Chivas can aspire to not only salvation but also the postseason. It's not too ambitious of a goal. Chivas was in the postseason last Clausura, making it to the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Santos.
There has been some roster turnover Almeyda must deal with. Midfielder Marco Fabian was sold to Frankfurt this winter, and his departure will be a blow for the club. Fabian was inconsistent but sometimes spurred on Chivas when it needed ideas going forward and his long-range shots and set pieces made him very unpopular with goalkeepers.
But the replacements are there. Though Chivas is limited by its policy of only signing Mexican players, it still did good business during the winter. Carlos "Gullit" Pena joined from Leon and promising U-20 star Orbelin Pineda was brought in from Queretaro. Both players are versatile midfielders who can create goals for others or score on their own.
Those new additions will need to be responsible for goals, though, because Chivas has a real weakness up front. Omar Bravo solidified his place as a club legend by becoming its top all-time scorer last tournament. But he'll turn 36 during the Clausura and already looks a bit long in the tooth. For whatever reason, Carlos Fierro has never been in favor, and now he's out on loan to Queretaro.
Chivas tried to bring in Alan Pulido at a ridiculous sum but ultimately was unable to bring the prodigal back to Liga MX. It would've been a boost to get even an out-of-form Pulido up top with Bravo, but the Argentine manager will be forced to work with what he has.
Luckily for fans at the Estadio Omnilife, the defense should be good enough for Chivas to win plenty of close matches. Right back Raul Lopez and center back Carlos Salcedo are bound for Europe as soon as the summer. Miguel Ponce and Jair Pereira both have been solid enough to merit attention from Juan Carlos Osorio, and when healthy Oswaldo Alanis is capable of coping with the league's most dangerous attackers.
There will be immense pressure as there always is at Chivas, but this team can handle that pressure. Almeyda earned trust with his positive start. He has a squad that can not only put the nightmare of relegation behind Chivas but also get the storied club dreaming of another title, the one that would bring it level with Club America once again. Finding No. 12 will probably take more time and a few new additions, but there's reason for optimism this tournament. That should be enough for Chivas fans for now.