You can’t call it a loss, because on Thursday night, Chivas won its final CONCACAF Champions League group stage match against Xelaju, 2-1.
What it definitely was, though, was a complete disaster for the club led by the Dutch contingent of Coach John Van’t Schip and Technical Advisor Johan Cruyff, who looked on in stunned disbelief from a luxury box at Omnilife that looked to have been reserved for him alone.
At any rate, few would have wanted to be around the Dutchman at the conclusion of Thursday night’s match.
A team in fourth place in the Guatemalan league, with no big name stars and a payroll that won’t add up to what Marco Fabian, or many of Chivas’ other stars, make on their own, came to Mexico and affirmed what they showed a few months back in Quetzaltenango: Chivas are nothing to be afraid of right now.
That’s where the problems begin and end for this team, which just should be better. Injuries have been a factor, but then, that’s hardly unusual in this sport. This team still has the players to blow a squad like Xelaju off the field.
Yet Thursday night, they let the Guatemalans stay in the match as long as they liked. It was late in the first half before Chivas finally managed to score, and they never put the game away despite several good chances.
Xelaju missed several chances early, and despite that was still able to find the one shot they needed late. Even a wrongly disallowed Xelaju goal before the one that stood up wasn’t enough to help Chivas, nor were nearly six minutes of stoppage time.
I don’t pretend to have studied the history of Chivas as intimately as Cruyff, who earlier on Thursday called the club’s last forty years mediocre, in so many words. But if the Dutchman thought that was mediocrity, this outcome has to trump just about everything.
The question now becomes: what can or should be done? This shocking elimination could well translate into lengthy troubling times if Chivas can’t get its act together quickly and qualify for the Liguilla. With three matches remaining, the club is on the outside looking in.
With such a sparkling young stable of players, brighter days are certainly ahead. But how much patience will Vergara have in the face of such a humiliating cap to a long run of poor form?
The team is young no doubt, but players with the skill and pedigrees of Fabian, Jorge Enriquez and Miguel Ponce have no business falling to a Guatemalan team in CONCACAF Champions League play.
After Tigres avoided the fate Wednesday, this marks the first time a Mexican team has ever failed to advance from the group stage of the CCL. There are mitigating circumstances -- the change to three team groups meant there was little room for error, and the quirky away goals rule installed to prevent a lopsided victory over the last-place team from making the difference was the undoing of Chivas in the end.
But this team, playing the entire tournament with a first choice lineup, knows it had to do better. A club that would like to think of itself as a regional and even world power needs to leave its stamp on international play, particularly against the likes of Xelaju and W Connection.
Instead, what Chivas left was an indelible black mark on its record, and doubts about whether Cruyff may have been right in questioning the story of Chivas as a historically formidable franchise.
Xelaju, at least, isn’t buying it.
- Sports & Recreation
- Johan Cruyff