Seattle thrashing gives Chivas something to play for

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Ulises Ruiz
The Liguilla is slipping away, but after Chivas' big win Wednesday the CCL could provide some consolation for the Guadalajara club

A few weeks ago, Chivas managed a draw with Club America in Mexico's biggest rivalry match. Before the game, America forward Oribe Peralta had said Chivas needed a win to save their season. It was the kind of banal banter that passed for smack talk before a game between an undefeated team and a struggling rival. 

Chivas came away with a 1-1 draw from that match. I agreed that Chivas' season wasn't saved, but it still could be. In that contest, Chivas showed an energy that had escaped it to that point in 2018. It looked like a team that could contend for the CONCACAF Champions League, a tournament Chivas has never won in the modern era. 

That same team showed up Wednesday night, rolling over the Seattle Sounders 3-0 for a 3-1 aggregate victory and a spot in the CCL semifinals against the New York Red Bulls.

Maybe in past editions, Chivas would've turned its nose up at the tournament, but after watching Tigres and Tijuana knocked out by MLS competition the day before, the danger was clear to Chivas. They've been abysmal in the Estadio Chivas and didn't have forward Alan Pulido because of suspension. With the Liguilla likely a dream that won't come true, the competition took on outsized importance.

You could see how much it meant to manager Matias Almeyda, who leapt into the arms of an assistant to celebrate Javier "La Chofis" Lopez's second goal - the strike that nudged the home team ahead on aggregate.

Almeyda hasn't hidden many emotions this season. He's shared his frustration, both with how the team has underperformed and how the directors didn't come through with signings he expected in the winter. He strangely backed management, though, when Oswaldo Alanis was locked in a bizarre contract dispute.

Alanis getting up to fitness has been key for his team's mini-resurgence in league play – Chivas returned to the win column last weekend against Lobos BUAP and now are undefeated in their last five league matches. 

Chivas have been puzzling in that respect this season. Almeyda may have wanted more players, and he could've used them. Yet, there are no glaring deficiencies in the team, especially if winger Isaac Brizuela is going to return to the level he was at several tournaments ago more often than just Wednesday night. The scoring threat hasn't been there, but Jesus Godinez and Javier Lopez both were on the mark Wednesday and have shown flashes in league play.

The Clausura now needs to move to the back seat, though. The blowout win over Seattle showed that this team still can reasonably expect to compete for the CCL trophy, and it's one that would be fair consolation for a disappointing league showing. It's possible, maybe even likely the way America is playing, that the CCL could come down to another two Clasico matches.

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Even some Chivas fans might scoff at the idea a CCL title is enough to stomach a second consecutive season in which they miss the playoffs. That's off base. The new format has renewed the tournament, and MLS clubs are closer than ever to finally breaking Mexican hegemony. 

What greater show of the most Mexican club's ideals could there be than defending Liga MX's superiority over MLS, and then suiting up at the Club World Cup against the champions of the other confederations with their all-Mexican XI?

Almeyda must shift the focus to the four matches (potentially) remaining in the CONCACAF Champions League to have any hope of 2018 going down as a success for the 2017 Clausura champions.

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