It wasn’t difficult to have sympathy for Chivas goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez as he faced journalists after his team’s 3-2 loss on Friday against Jaguares. The 20-year-old admitted that he wasn’t ready to make his debut and that the experience was bittersweet. His honesty was admirable.
The truth is that Rodriguez looked nervous during the 90 minutes, arguably contributing to two of Jaguares’ goals with basic mistakes in his decision-making.
But the fact he was thrust into the limelight at such a tender age for a goalkeeper isn’t entirely his own fault. The episode again opens up the issue of where Chivas should draw the line in terms of getting the balance between handing youth-team players and making sure the squad has enough experienced players within it.
Certainly in the goalkeeping position, not having sufficient backup for an injury to Luis Michel has cost the club vital points at a time when they desperately need them to reach the playoffs – the club has now slipped to 13th place after two consecutive losses.
Having to rely on center backs that are in their early 20s to fill the boots of a player like Hector Reynoso against Jaguares is also far from ideal.
The truth is that the club now understands that. In recent offseasons, Chivas has tried to plug gaps by bringing in experienced players. There was a clear shift in policy as Johan Cruyff was hailed the savior following a 10-game run one year ago in which the team lost every game. The Dutch incomers made it a clear priority to purchase players to help the youngsters develop and add some nous to the team.
In came Rafael Marquez Lugo last summer to boost the strike-force and take some weight of fthe shoulders of Erick 'Cubo' Torres. Experienced Monterrey midfielder Luis Perez also signed on the dotted line.
Then over the winter, in came Adrian Cortes, Sergio Perez and Miguel Sabah. Despite some criticism, there have been improvements. It’s hard to imagine Chivas losing 10 straight games on the run now.
However, it still isn't where Chivas needs to be.
The recent injury crisis, with Marco Fabian, Reynoso, Jorge Enriquez and Michel all out of action, highlights how shallow the squad still is.
Another experienced ‘keeper, a center back, a winger and perhaps some additional strength in the midfield are some of the areas that Chivas needs to strengthen.
The good thing for Chivas fans is that sporting president Dennis te Kloese seems very aware that the squad is still short, admitting as much to journalists after the loss against Jaguares.
But getting the balance could be made even more difficult when you consider that the possibility of a key player like Fabian heading over to Europe this summer is strong, and with other youngsters like Enriquez having openly expressed their desires to head overseas at some point in their careers.
That could be a blessing in disguise and would raise funds for the Chivas ownership to purchase the players the club needs. On the other hand, it could leave the team without that little bit of magic that Fabian provides and fans without the player that is currently most popular with the Chivas faithful.
As usual with these things, it’s one thing to diagnose a problem and another to come up with an acceptable solution, especially when it could cost a lot of money. Another big summer awaits Chivas, with the Clausura playoffs looking an increasingly distant prospect.
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