These are trying times for soccer in Guadalajara.
After three rounds of play in Mexico’s Clausura, the city’s three representatives in the top flight occupy the final three places in the standings. For two of those teams, Atlas and Estudiantes Tecos, this is not altogether surprising – both teams also occupy the final two spots in the relegation table and have struggled to find the quality and money to be competitive in the first division.
Chivas, the city’s flagship team, however, is in an unusual position. For the first time in the team’s history, it has opened a tournament with three consecutive defeats. (0-1 vs. Atlante, 1-3 at Jaguares, 0-2 vs. Tijuana.) It is the only remaining team that has yet to pick up a point in the Clausura, and on Saturday evening, it cost head coach Fernando Quirate his job.
While Quirarte was not fired – rather, he resigned – the writing was already on the wall after a weak defensive effort against Jaguares. Following the defeat to Tijuana on Saturday evening, a result that will also negatively affect Chivas’ two city rivals in the relegation battle, Quirarte simply told reporters he was incapable of turning things around, and offered his resignation.
“Good evening, I am here to tell you all that a few moments ago, I just presented my resignation to [team president Rafael] Ortega,” he said. “I step aside because I could not turn this situation around, and I hope that someone who is capable comes. I want to thank [team owners] Angelica Fuentes and Jorge Vergara, and the technical staff for this opportunity that I couldn’t take advantage of.”
It was a disappointing moment for Chivas, who despite finishing first in the 2011 Apertura standings and qualifying for the 2012 Copa Libertadores, could not rebound in the Clausura after a shock elimination at the hands of Queretaro in the Apertura playoffs.
Following the game, Vergara lashed out at Quirarte, who arrived in somewhat ignominious circumstances following the firing of Jose Luis Real at the beginning of October 2011. Real, who had been in charge for nearly two years and guided the team to the final of the 2010 Copa Libertadores, had been fired following one win in his last six games and Ortega took a major role in appointing Quirarte, who had achieved great success as a defender with Chivas from 1976-1989 and won 45 caps for the Mexican national team.
However, despite the talent available to Quirarte in nearly every area of the team and an initial three-game winning streak that included an away win at archrival America, Chivas had failed to win since a 1-0 victory over eventual champions Tigres on Oct. 26. A playoff upset which saw Chivas fail to score the single goal necessary to advance against Queretaro at home served as notice not much more than a month after Quirarte’s appointment, and the disastrous start to 2012 brought his reign at one of Mexico’s most-loved clubs to an end.
“What Quirarte did with Chivas is as if we gave him a Ferrari and he turned it into a Volkswagen,” Vergara told the radio show Raza Deportiva. “Chivas plays like a headless chicken. “Güero [former manager Jose Luis Real] left the team so that the person who arrived could have continuity, but it was given to someone who was not prepared.”
However, Vergara also took some of the blame for Chivas’ current situation, saying that he erred in delegating the responsibility of selecting a new coach to Ortega.
“I have my part of the blame and it was delegating 100%,” he concluded. “I believe I erred in accepting that [Ortega] chose Quirarte.”
There is plenty of speculation that Vergara could opt to bring Real, who still works at the club as director of sporting development, back into the mix, with Real being familiar with many of the players and often playing an attractive style of the soccer. Alberto Coyote and Omar Arellano Nuño (father of current Chivas player Omar Arellano), who work in the club's youth ranks, have also been mentioned as replacements.
Quirarte isn't the only one in Guadalajara out of a job, though.
Jose Luis Delgado, Estudiantes Tecos' former manager, resigned the previous weekend following two defeats to open the season, despite just having been appointed in August 2011, highlighting the results-driven aspect of Mexican soccer, especially when factoring the dangers of relegation.
Now Juan Carlos Chavez, who was appointed manager of Atlas after a successful run to the semifinals of the U-20 World Cup in August 2011, will have to look over his shoulder as the battle for survival picks up and teams become more and more desperate to avoid relegation. That is not to mention the team’s two consecutive defeats after an opening day draw, the latest of which was a 2-1 defeat at relegation rival Queretaro.
It's not been a pretty couple of months for Guadalajara's soccer teams, and instead of continuity, they have opted for change. Somewhat ironically though, in a league where results need to be immediate, only the end of the season will determine whether the decisions made over the past few weeks will hold up.
The other results over the weekend were: Estudiantes Tecos 1-1 America, Morelia 2-0 San Luis, Cruz Azul 1-1 Pachuca, Monterrey 1-1 Pumas UNAM, Santos Laguna 1-0 Jaguares, Toluca 2-1 Tigres UANL and Puebla 1-2 Atlante.
Pavel Ibarra Meda contributed additional reporting from Guadalajara, Mexico.
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