Chivas telenovela renewed for Clausura 2022 season

The Chivas crashed out of the playoffs last season in the wildcard round and their prospects for the Clausura 2022 have not improved much since then. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images)
The Chivas crashed out of the playoffs last season in the wildcard round and their prospects for the Clausura 2022 have not improved much since then. (Photo by Jam Media/Getty Images) /
As the Chivas Turn, redux
Chivas general manager Ricardo Peláez is sitting on a very hot seat as the Clausura 2022 season kicks off this week. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

The Chivas Apertura 2021 soap opera appears to have been renewed for another season. The inner workings of Guadalajara’s front office and the poor results on the field was fodder for supporters and critics alike. And the dysfunction looks likely to continue.

The saga last year: GM declares Chivas a title contender, guarantees a Top 4 finish; players rebel against conservative tactics, but freelancing does not produce wins and coach lashes out at press conference; lack of discipline continues off the field and several stars suspended and fined for violating Covid protocols; coach fired (after a win) as team mired in 9th place with a 3-4-2 record and only 8 goals scored.

While GM interviews coaching candidates, academy director uses personal friendship to convince owner to name him the new manager, catching the beleaguered GM off guard; GM annoys owner by constantly referring to new manager as “interim coach;” new-look Chivas fail to score in first three games under “interim” guy and tumble down to 11th; late push earns wildcard berth as No. 10 seed but team bows out meekly after conceding a late goal and getting eliminated in penalty shoot-out.

Before playoff fiasco, Chivas announce “interim” tag will be removed and coach will remain in place, promising to offer more details about the direction of the club when season ends. That year-end overview is never provided, the team’s cross-town rival ends a 70-year title drought, and the holidays arrive with no news from Chivas HQ. The embattled GM bites his tongue, fighting the urge to tell reporters the owner is entirely to blame?

In the next episode of ‘As the Chivas Turn’ …

OK, the final sentence above comes from a reporter’s pen and is not the actual storyline, but it is not so far-fetched. And the bumbling and drama has continued into the New Year, further exasperating Chivas Nation, so much so that there is social media noise calling for owner Amaury Vergara to sell the team.

The Chivas entered the winter transfer window with a long wish list and plenty of holes to fill. “El Rebaño Sagrado” desperately needed a face lift and fans eagerly offered up a list of favorites, including ex-Chivas Rodolfo Pizarro, “Chofis” López and even J.J. Macías and “Chicharito” Hernández, but the club – like most Liga MX teams – has been strapped for cash ever since multiple revenue streams (ticket sales, concessions, etc.) have been interrupted by the pandemic.

In mid-December, Ricardo Peláez was preparing a swap deal with hated rivals América. This was not popular with a large segment of supporters who detest the idea of any former Aguila wearing Guadalajara’s colors.

The trade would have brought in Tokyo bronze medalist Sebastián Córdova in exchange for his slumping Olympic teammate Uriel Antuna, a constant disciplinary problem. The transaction fell apart when Antuna would not accept the contract offer from América.

Antuna was then packaged with left back Alejandro Mayorga for Cruz Azul forward Roberto Alvarado (another bronze medalist). A few days earlier, the Chivas acquired second division forward Paulo Yrizar though they assigned him to their Liga Expansíon MX club, Tapatío, making him available to play with Guadalajara should the need arise. Still, hardly a monumental acquisition.

As the front office revealed the team was looking for a striker to boost an anemic attack (the Chivas’ 13 goals in 17 games was second-worst in Liga MX last season), the club’s one true star – Alexis Vega – made a power play … well, his agent did.

Despite knowing the Chivas are hard up for cash, Alex López demanded Vega’s wages be doubled, or else. This rash move was not backed up by alternative offers (though Monterrey had inquired about his availability). There were no European clubs bidding for Vega’s services and Guadalajara’s No. 10 had scored exactly 0 goals in an injury-riddled Apertura 2021. This after scoring just 2 goals the season before. So where was the leverage?

Peláez was furious and word leaked that the team was considering freezing Vega out. Initial reports indicated the Chivas gave the Vega/López team three choices: 1-negotiate a modest raise now; 2-play out the season and negotiate a significant contract extension; or, 3-sit out the entire season.

That’s right! Ownership threatened to sideline the star player for the Clausura 2022 season, a retaliatory move that would have blown up in Vega’s face since it would virtually kill his hopes of making Mexico’s World Cup roster and would significantly lower his trade value as well as his next contract.

After the initial hissy fit, however, the front office calmed down and resumed negotiations, knowing that Vega is the most important player on the roster. The reports that they are proposing a hefty pay raise suggests that they might try to sell him off for a profit over the summer. But that is for a later episode of “As the Chivas Turn.”

The Boss’ cryptic tweet, and other worries

On Wednesday, owner Amaury Vergara stirred up a bit of a hornets’ nest with a mid-day tweet.

The rough translation: “Chivas is only for Mexican players; Not all Mexican players are for Chivas.”

That set off a firestorm of comments from club supporters who are more and more dejected at the front office’s failure to bring in Mexican stars. Pundits speculated about who might be the target of the tweet, while Vergara remained mum on the subject.

One possible hint came in a commentator by Rubén Rodríguez in “Record.” The fearless columnist explained that Rodolfo Pizarro was likely barred from returning to the club because of an affront dating back to 2017 when ownership was embroiled in a controversy with then-coach Matías Almeyda. The players lined up behind the coach and Vergara is apparently still peeved about that.

The tweet-storm Vergara caused came as additional turmoil appeared on the horizon. “El Universal Deportes” speculated about a potential lawsuit against the club. The ex-wife of former owner Jorge Vergara (Amaury’s father passed away in November 2019) might file a claim that her two daughters deserve part-ownership of the Chivas (franchise, stadium, concessions, parking). This potential snafu could explain why Amaury Vergara is hesitant to spend too much money.

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But if you want to find out who is holding a grudge against whom, you’ll have to tune into the new season of “As the Chivas Turn.” Find out if the coach gets axed from the program mid-season, or if the general manager is forced out in shame. Or maybe we’ll get a storyline full of heroes with a trophy presentation at the end, or perhaps another cliff-hanger setting the stage for a special summer series. You never know.