Chivas made it two Clasico victories in two weeks, dominating Club America but coming away with a win by the narrowest margin, 1-0.
Angel Zaldivar scored from the spot to lift Chivas to victory, and while he deserves praise for his play the past two weeks, Chivas also got a boost from a player who was excellent but not flashy in both matches: Jose Juan Vazquez.
"Gallito," or "Little Rooster" was critical for the Guadalajara side as it held off a Club America team that, despite going down to 10 men in the 52nd minute, showed more energy in attack than it has in previous games. Just after the sending off, Vazquez broke up a counterattack nearly on his own, cruelly booked for a handball he had no intention of committing. As the attack came forward, Vazquez stuck out his leg and saw the ball bounce off his quad, then onto his arm.
It was hardly the only time that Vazquez came up big to stop an attack. As the man back for set pieces, Vazquez was called upon several times Saturday, breaking up potential America counterattacks as Renato Ibarra looked to break forward with speed.
It all could've been much different. While Zaldivar's goal had Chivas ahead after half an hour, and the home side controlled most of the match, America came out strong. Vazquez was back to make this superb tackle, making sure America forward Oribe Peralta couldn't get a touch and direct in an early goal.
Vázquez salva al Rebaño con una gran barrida. pic.twitter.com/lUF036srM0— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) February 19, 2017
Vazquez's summer move from Leon has turned out much better than his former club teammate Carlos "Gullit" Pena, though Pena's move generated more hype. Like Pena, there was a time Vazquez wasn't getting into coach Matias Almeyda's lineup. He told reporters earlier this week that he knew when he moved to Chivas that unlike at Leon he'd have to fight for a starting place. Now, he seems to be a critical part of a team that has the look of a title contender. Vazquez partners well with rising star Orbelin Pineda, who has the freedom to move forward while Vazquez is able to protect the back line and break up counterattacks if Pineda comes up empty when joining the move up front.
But while 21-year-old Pineda has gotten consistent calls to the national team, Vazquez hasn't seen time under Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio since the Colombian tactican's first two matches at the helm in 2015. He was named to the Copa America Centenario provisional roster, and while it's understandable if Osorio has moved on to players like Jonathan dos Santos, Jesus Molina and Pineda in the center of the park, the manager also needs to put together two teams this summer.
The 28-year-old Chivas midfielder is building a case that he should be in consideration. For now, he'll be pleased that he's helped Chivas to victory in the most important date on the Liga MX calendar. Continued success doing the dirty work may be thankless, but Gallito knows Almeyda, Osorio and a legion of fans in Guadalajara are watching closely.