Guadalajara rivals Chivas and Atlas turn heads with peculiar moves

imageOmar Bravo’s reunion with Chivas was only overshadowed by…

Atlas and Chivas share a city and a penchant for peculiar behaviors. The bitter rivals solicit controversy at every turn. Nothing comes easily on or off the field. Their actions consistently reinforce their inconsistent approach to standard operating principles.

The events on Monday underscored the unique operating fabric within the city’s footballing landscape at the moment. It is quite the day indeed when Omar Bravo’s return to Chivas from Atlas somehow ranks third in the pecking order.

Bravo’s rather reluctant reunion with his former side after a successful spell across town even drew second billing at Estadio Omnilife. Jose Luis Real claimed top spot when he emerged as the new Chivas coach for the Clausura. It is a typical inside job of an appointment for a club that places real value on turning to people familiar with its unorthodox ways. Real spent the past six months or so tending to the oft-ignored sister club in Los Angeles, but Chivas owner Jorge Vergara concluded his poor spell in MLS to steer the Red-and-White away from relegation.

image…the club’s other comeback signing: manager Jose Luis Real (Images: Mexsport)

The move carries the usual air of desperation, though it also include more pragmatism than usual. Real guided Chivas to the Copa Libertadores during his first spell between 2009 and 2011 and oversaw a diligent, if somewhat lackluster, side capable of churning out results. His efficiency appeals after a poor Apertura campaign. The prospect of installing the unsuccessful Chivas USA technical team – both Real and new sporting director Francisco Palencia return to the parent club a dismal sojourn north of the border – to fix matters at home somehow fits right into the peculiar working order of a club lurching from identity to identity.

Atlas addressed its more pressing financial concerns when its vast ownership group reached an agreement to sell the debt-laden club to TV Azteca on Monday night. The decision essentially wipes away any long-term questions about financial viability. The club will survive, but it may just do so at the expense of coherence and working order in Liga MX.

TV Azteca’s acquisition once again raises concerns about investors owning multiple Liga MX teams. Liga MX adopted a one-owner, one-team policy back in May with an eye toward fully implementing the policy by 2018. As part of that agreement, the owners agreed to maintain or subtract from their current holdings before that juncture. TV Azteca sidestepped that rule to add Atlas to a portfolio that already includes Liguilla entrants Morelia.

If the past few months (years?) in Mexico prove anything, it is the pliability of the rules and regulations to suit the needs of Liga MX and its owners. Atlas’ sale reinforces those notions and supplies a salient reminder that those structures are always subject to revision. And at this stage in a tumultuous year for both Guadalajara-based sides, it should come as no surprise that the maxim especially holds true in Mexico’s second city.


Club Atlas’ financial woes are over, but is their deal with Azteca TV good for Liga MX?


Liga MX: Apertura review

imageCan Club America return to early-season form? (Image: Reuters)

The impending World Cup playoff between Mexico and New Zealand obscured the end of the Liga MX campaign with good reason. Club América secured the top seed by what felt like the halfway point in this 17-game season. Half the playoff teams entrenched themselves in the Liguilla places with a handful of rounds to play. Only three postseason spots hung in the balance heading into the final weekend.

A little bit of late drama perked up the proceedings (Chiapas tumbled out altogether after entering the final two weekends in fifth place) and provided a bit of context to a compelling season. Catch up on the proceedings with a look at the key points you might have missed along the way:

1. Club América is the best team in Mexico and it isn’t close… 

América set the tone for the Apertura by dropping two points (a 1-1 draw with resurgent Club León to open the season) in its first seven matches. Miguel Herrera’s side then responded to its first defeat by winning five of its next six matches. Only the wholesale adoption of Herrera and the América starting XI by the FMF prevented the holders from making a serious run at just about every foreseeable record in a short season.

2. … but that fact may not lead to a second consecutive title               

The closing stages of the campaign provided reason for hope: América claimed just one win in its final five outings with its coach and its players distracted by their duties with El Tri. Those missteps came with the top seed essentially sealed, but there are reasons – particularly the setback against quarterfinal opponent Tigres (a difficult opponent given the proximity of the first leg in Monterrey to the World Cup playoff second leg in Wellington) and the suspect record against potential contenders León (the season-opening draw) and Santos Laguna (a midseason defeat) – to suggest the best team during the season may not ultimately defend its trophy.

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Five points from Liga MX: Atlas’ magic; Tijuana on the brink


1. Atlas continues its magical run with derby win over Chivas: Rodrigo Millar decided the latest edition of the Clásico Tapatio in favor of the title chasers when he turned home Amaury Ponce’s cross on the half-hour. The latest step forward for the second side in Guadalajara came with an additional benefit: the triumph essentially placed Benjamin Galindo’s side in a position where it must win both of its remaining games to maintain its Liguilla hopes.

Chivas will likely have to accomplish that task without Erick Torres. The lively striker suffered a graphic injury to his left elbow after a clumsy tackle by Luis Robles in the 79th minute. Immediate calls for the medical staff – plus the quick attention paid by several Atlas players, including goalkeeper Miguel Pinto – underscored the severity of the situation.
2. Cruz Azul puts one foot in the Liguilla by eliminating Toluca: One win from their final two matches – admittedly difficult affairs against Santos Laguna and Monterrey, mind you – should prove enough for La Máquina to claim a place in the top eight after a 2-0 victory at La Bombonera on Sunday.

Christian Giménez (with the aid of neat buildup work from Gerardo Torrado and Teofilo Gutierrez) and Luis Perea (from a Pablo Barrera corner kick) ended the Red Devils’ remote playoff hopes and prolonged Cruz Azul’s recent run of form. No team will relish drawing this group in the playoffs.

3. Tijuana on the brink after Morelia defeat: Héctor Mancilla showed the difference an extra touch of class can provide when he scored twice – including a truly stunning bit of skill to equalize – to hand Morelia a 2-1 victory at Estadio Caliente. Consider the Apertura defense just about concluded for Tijuana at this point with a Copa Libertadores round of 16 tie against Palmeiras on tap starting next week and a three-point gap to close with two games left to play.

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If you were too busy watching “The Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones” on Sunday night (and who could blame you really), you missed out on  the biggest Harlem Shake ever before El Super Clasico match between Guadalajara and Club America at Estadio Omnilife.

Yes, we’re tired of watching this dance phenomenon just as the other person. Yet, what made this version unique is that every person imaginable - from players, coaches, referees, fans and workers - participated in the spectacle.

Don’t believe us? Check it out!