Chivas play Saturday. Chivas play Sunday.
It seems like a video game, when you and your friend pick the same team to have the fairest matchup possible. But this is no game. The historic Guadalajara side is splitting in half, with a portion of its squad headed west to California for an International Champions Cup match against Benfica and the others going south to Torreon where they'll open the Liga MX campaign against Santos Laguna on Sunday.
Of course, players are not video game avatars. They're real people who get affected by flights, by tight muscles, by long stretches away from home.
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It's a situation with which no one seems happy - not Liga MX, not the ICC, not Chivas and not their opponents. Chivas manager Tomas Boy is understandably one of the most frustrated.
"I would've liked if the FMF were more accommodating with us, a bit more understanding," Boy said. "The federation could have taken another position toward Guadalajara and given us the ability to face these tough opponents. We're playing Saturday and Sunday, so I'm going to give priority to the league."
He doesn't have much choice, but that creates other problems. With the ICC now irritated at having to market Chivas B vs. Benfica to the Northern California market, the top players are set to go straight from Torreon to DFW for the club's final ICC match featuring Chivas against Atletico Madrid in Arlington, Texas. That guarantees that not only will preparations for Jornada 1 be disrupted, so too will those for the club's home opener against Tigres.
European managers often have seen their seasons tanked by an overloaded team running out of gas after starting the year by contesting tournaments like the Europa League plus cup competitions. This run of four matches in a week, which will see the team cover more than 6,500 miles in 11 days, will be tough for the team to bounce back from.
Boy can point his finger at the league, but his frustration really should be with his own directors. Jorge Vergara, his son Amaury and the others running the club are responsible.
They're reaping the benefits from sending their club barnstorming through the United States, where they know they can make dollars from the fan base that has money to spend but only has Chivas in town once every few years.
They've once again put profit before points, sending their players barnstorming through the U.S. while other teams have preseasons that actually serve to get them ready for the Apertura. It'd be one thing if this were all a misunderstanding, but Chivas clearly thought they could throw their weight around and get the league to postpone its opener.
"We have to prioritize our tournament, and a friendly match can't be above our league," Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla said. "They were informed of this before they signed the contract. They wanted to do it like that. It's their decision, but the calendar has been previously announced."
Fans shouldn't even be comforted by the idea that perhaps this debacle will teach the owners a lesson. They didn't learn from past mistakes, either. This isn't the first time something like this has happened. Chivas played two games in the same day in 2006, with half of Chepo de la Torre's squad opening league play, the other half taking on Barcelona in a friendly match in Los Angeles and De La Torre on the bench for both contests.
In 2006, however, Chivas were not in the same situation they find themselves in now - which is to say that in 2006 Chivas were not at risk of relegation. All things being considered, the Goats are probably fine. Even if they have a poor Apertura and Clausura, all they have to do is be better than Veracruz, and they avoid the drop. Even if they should go down on sporting merit, the league has let the last two teams that should have gone down stay in the top division after paying a fine. But what an absolute embarrassment it would be if Chivas go into April or May needing points not to get into the Liguilla but to stay in the league.
That's part of the reason the club accepting the ICC's invitation is so galling. In theory, this is supposed to be a tournament for teams that are actually good. Chivas won the league-cup double in 2017 and managed to win the Concacaf Champions League the following year. After that, they ran off manager Matias Almeyda and have failed to be champion of anything since his departure.
The 'stars' fans won't be seeing Saturday isn't exactly a who's who of Mexican soccer. Oribe Peralta, Oswaldo Alanis, Jesus Molina, Isaac Brizuela and Eduardo "La Chofis" Lopez are all fine squad players in the league, but none are currently in the picture for Tata Martino's Mexico national team.
That's just another demonstration of how far Chivas have fallen. Their brand is far stronger than their squad, and rather than do something about it those in charge are content to sit back and watch the money roll in.