Chivas drama bumps Rayados from Liga MX headlines

The Chivas said good-bye to Víctor Manuel Vucetich, firing the coach just days ahead of the "Super Clásico." (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images)
The Chivas said good-bye to Víctor Manuel Vucetich, firing the coach just days ahead of the "Super Clásico." (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images) /
Liga MX chivas drama
Arturo González postures after scoring the opener for Monterrey in Sunday’s Clásico Regiomontano. the Rayados went on to win 2-0. (Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Just five days ahead of the biggest Liga MX derby – the “Super Clásico” – Guadalajara fired Víctor Manuel Vucetich. Former Necaxa coach Marcelo Michel Leaño was promoted from his position as director of the Chivas academy and will guide “El Rebaño Sagrado” against league-leading América.

Although the move smacks of desperation, some Guadalajara fans are asking “what took you so long?” Fans angry at the team’s poor performance this season and last had surely hoped the front office would make this move during the FIFA break, a step that would have allowed the new coach to work with the team for a week or so before having to play a game (in such a case, that would have been the Matchday 8 contest against the Pumas, a game that featured yet another desultory performance by The Goats.)

Instead, Michel Leaño must step into a fractured locker room and apply makeshift adjustments heading into the biggest game on every season’s Liga MX calendar.

A long time coming

Guadalajara GM Ricardo Peláez had been under tremendous pressure to sack Vucetich, as lusty jeers of “Fuera Vucetich” have been echoing throughout Estadio Akron most of this season. Chivas Nation demands that its team be among the flashiest teams in Liga MX, and prefers a relentless offensive-minded style, whereas “Vuce” is well-known as a pragmatic tactician.

It was always an awkward marriage and poor results made the pairing seem doomed heading into the Apertura 2021. And so it has been. The Chivas have just three wins after nine games (3-4-2) while scoring just eight goals.

Worse than the dismal showings on the pitch were the whispers of dissension and the apparent lack of discipline and questionable commitment among too many on the roster. That suggested the team had lost respect for the coach, or at least tuned him out (which is, in essence, the same thing).

The latest example was the tantrum thrown by defender Antonio Briseño when he was removed from Saturday’s match against Pachuca in minute 53. That followed on the heels of last week’s alleged training-ground confrontation between captain Jesús Molina and Fernando “El Nene” Beltrán. These were just the latest examples of a long list of transgressions: players violating team rules and breaching Covid protocols, many resulting in suspensions and even rescinded contracts.

The front office will want fans to believe that this is the first step in a return to Liga MX prominence, but it will take more than a coaching change, says Universal Deportes columnist Gerardo Velázquez de León. The outcome of the Liga MX “Super Clásico” will simply serve as the next episode in “As the Chivas Turn.”

Have Rayados turned it around?

Just a week ago, the Liga MX rumor mill was whispering that Javier Aguirre’s job at Monterrey was not safe. Despite having one of the league’s biggest payroll, the Rayados were playing mediocre football.

Through seven weeks, “La Pandilla” had won only two matches (2-5-0), then suffered its first loss in a lackluster showing against Atlas. Speculation had it that if The Striped Gang was knocked out of the Concacaf Champions League by Cruz Azul and performed poorly against the Tigres in the “Clásico Regiomontano” on Sunday, then “El Vasco” could get the boot.

Although that always seemed unlikely with a coach of Aguirre’s stature, Liga MX owners are notoriously impatient.

All that conjecture is now moot after the Rayados destroyed Cruz Azul (4-1) to advance to the CCL finals, then tamed the Tigres to claim bragging rights in the Monterrey metroplex. With a win on Wednesday against second-place Toluca, Aguirre will have the northern powerhouse in prime position to contend for a top seed in the Liga MX playoffs.

Tuneros are this season’s Liga MX revelation

Atlético de San Luis finished dead last in the relegation standings last season and, due to the new “No Demotion” rules, was forced to shell out 120 million pesos as a penalty. The lousy results and the dismal prospects for improvement prompted majority owners Atlético de Madrid to reconsider its involvement in the project.

The team sold star striker Nicolás Ibáñez and winger Pablo Barrera to help pay the hefty fine and slashed its payroll by releasing a dozen veterans, restocking with surplus players from around Liga MX. Its one conspicuous move was to acquire veteran Argentine goalie Marcelo Barovero.

A new coach – the relatively unknown Marcelo Méndez – was hired only a month before the Apertura 2021 kicked off, and handicappers expected the Tuneros to be a cellar-dwelling team once again. Then the Liga MX season started.

Much to the surprise of Liga MX partisans, San Luis has been lurking within the top half of the table all season. The “Rojiblancos” stunned the Chivas in Guadalajara in the season opener, but stumbled against lowly Necaxa in Matchday 4.

Before naysayers could say “I told you so” the Tuneros earned a scoreless draw against holders Cruz Azul and have not lost since. A dominating 4-1 home win over Tijuana this past week boosted San Luis into sixth place – and the Tuneros have a game in hand.

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But the Tuneros’ lofty position is not secure and it will be put to severe test in the coming weeks. After tomorrow night’s contest against FC Juárez, their next four games are at Toluca, vs the Tigres, at León and then at América. We’ll know more about San Luis after that gauntlet.