Latest Liga MX soap opera: As the Chivas Turn

Guadalajara is underachieving again and the coach has put his foot in his mouth in the latest episode of As the Chivas Turn. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images)
Guadalajara is underachieving again and the coach has put his foot in his mouth in the latest episode of As the Chivas Turn. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images) /
Chivas soap opera
Víctor Manuel Vucetich (right) and the Chivas coaching staff observe the action on the pitch as Guadalajara plays Necaxa. (Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images) /

The Chivas are in Dallas preparing to play a “Super Clásico” exhibition game against América on Sunday, but all is not right within “The Sacred Flock” .

Coach Víctor Manuel Vucetich salvaged his job – just barely – when Guadalajara edged past visiting Necaxa last weekend thanks to a penalty kick do-over. The front office had given “King Midas” an ultimatum: Defeat the Rayos or pack up and leave.

Deep into added time of a 1-1 match, “El Rebaño Sagrado” was granted a penalty kick only to see Necaxa goalie Luis Malagón save the shot.

Fortunately for Vucetich, VAR buzzed down to the field with evidence that Malagón had come off his line early. Angel Zaldívar buried the second-shot gift – at 90+13 – and the Chivas came out with a 2-1 win.

Chivas coach cuts off nose to spite face

Just when it appeared that Vucetich could breathe more easily, reports have emerged that management is irked by the coach’s recent remarks to the media that it is a disadvantage to only have Mexican players on the roster.

If there’s one thing you don’t mess with in Guadalajara, it is the proud tradition the Chivas have of only using Mexican players.

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It’s not like this was some secret foisted upon Vucetich when he took the job a year ago. He knew full well that the Chivas were 100% Mexican, even proclaiming that “there is plenty of talent on hand to be title contenders right now.”

Indeed, “El Rey Midas” ended Guadalajara’s six-season playoff drought – upsetting eternal rival América in the quarterfinals – in his first season in charge. Disciplinary issues muddied the success, however, as four players were kicked off the team for violating team rules.

Last season, the “Chivas Rayadas” regressed, making a late charge to qualify for a wildcard spot only to get bounced by Pachuca in an error-prone series. Once again, discipline issues – on an off the pitch – were a constant source of contention.

This season, “El Rebaño Sagrado” is again struggling to fulfill expectations (in 11th place with a 2-3-2 record and a –1 goal differential) such that they are living up to the mocking tag of “UnderaChivas.”

Comments provoke ire among fans

With a two-week FIFA break set to return calm to Chivas camp, Vucetich decided to roil the waters with his fateful comments.

In an interview with the TUDN network, the coach rationalized the team’s poor start, arguing that “it is a disadvantage to play with only Mexican players.”

This contradicts what GM Ricardo Peláez proclaimed before the season when he told reporters that “with the players coming through our academy system and our core of national team players, (the Chivas) will be in contention for a top 4 seeding and a first-round bye in the playoffs.”

It was no secret that the poor start had the front office considering a coaching change (Antonio Mohamed and El Tri Olímpico coach Jaime Lozano were said to be on the short list), so Vucetich’s engagement with the media might have been an attempt to deflect blame.

But not only did the embattled coach whine that it’s hard to win without foreigners, angering Chivas Nation, he also tweaked fan favorite Alexis Vega. The team had a reasonable excuse for its slow start as four Guadalajara players were on duty in Tokyo with Mexico’s Olympic where they won bronze medals.

Vucetich criticized Vega’s performance in his three games since returning (a loss, a tie and the win against Necaxa). Even though the shifty forward was voted a top performer by the media covering the Olympics, “Vuce” claimed Vega was playing poorly, suggesting that “playing Olympic teams is much easier than facing Liga MX teams.”

Chivas fans didn’t take kindly to the unprovoked attack and Vega’s supporters were further bolstered by his star turn with El Tri in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier.

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So … what’s next for Vucetich and Guadalajara? Can the coach survive much longer or will the thin ice upon which he is standing crack further? Will the front office deliver another ultimatum? Stay tuned, and don’t miss the next episode of “As the Chivas Turn.”