Managing a Liga MX squad qualifies largely as a thankless position. Very little of the success and nearly all of the failures of the team are laid at your feet. The only security in the job comes from the knowledge that someone else is likely to give you another shot after your untimely firing. The shark tank that is Mexican sports media, the abhorrent level of the league’s officiating and the often delusional fan expectations serve as icing on the cake.
Benjamin Galindo could write a book on the injustices of his profession. In his nine years as a manager, he’s had six different stints at the helm, including two times with Santos and Chivas. Last year he led Santos Laguna to its fourth title. The following season they missed out on the playoffs and he was promptly let go. Apparently, championships don’t buy you too much time in Mexico. This season he signed on with Jorge Vergara and Chivas again. Galindo has worked many players from the youth ranks into the team, while at the same time getting the club into a good position to qualify for postseason play.
Heading in to yesterday’s Superclasico with Club America, Chivas were a club to be reckoned with. They carried a nine game unbeaten streak in to this highly anticipated match-up. But for as much momentum and hype Chivas brought with them, it was not enough to overcome the brick wall they encountered. This brick wall was not as much their opponent, but a collection of injustices that come with the territory.
No doubt, America is currently a better team than Chivas. They have a more complete roster and normally play as a cohesive unit. Their place in the standings bears that out. Despite this, Chivas began the match asserting themselves as the superior team. They amassed a plethora of corner kicks and some decent looks at goal. Galindo had his team ready to play a solid game and they seemed primed to get a big win over their bitter rival. Missing key midfielder, Patricio Araujo, to suspension, Jorge ‘Chaton’ Enrqiuez was finally able to crack the starting lineup again. His chance at regained playing time didn’t last very long. After eleven minutes, Chaton suffered what appeared to be a very serious knee injury. Galindo was forced to go to his third option at the position and use his first sub early. After another ten minutes, Galindo was forced to use his second substitution on an injured Hector Reynoso (who probably shouldn’t have been out there to begin with).
These two injuries hurt Chivas but paled in comparison to the blow they took in the 36th minute. Sergio Perez received his second yellow card for a foul on Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez. At least a foul was the supposed reasoning for Perez receiving the card. As Galindo (correctly) pointed out in his post-match press conference, this was not only an offense unworthy of a card, it wasn’t even a foul. Chivas, who had played the superior soccer until that point, were now down to one substitution remaining and playing down a man.
The remainder of the match played out as suspected. Chivas tried to hold on for as long as they could but ultimately were unable to keep America off the scoreboard. Raul Jimenez headed in off of an America corner kick to give the visitors the lead not long after halftime. To add insult to yet another injury, Marco Fabian went down after rolling on his ankle moments later. Galindo was forced to take off his most dynamic player with his final substitution. America further asserted themselves for the remainder of the match by controlling possession and using their man advantage effectively. Chivas sat back and defended and were unable to gain many more scoring chances. Raul Jimenez eventually found his second and the final goal of the match.
Benjamin Galindo brought a team ready to play into this match. Unfortunately for him and Chivas supporters, a significant portion of the team will now be out with injury for several weeks. We don’t know what the result of this match would have been without these injuries and the red card. Bad luck and poor officiating made sure that this clasico was neither super nor classic.
There are a few poignant takeaways from this mess of a match, however. Chivas are now in rough shape. Whatever momentum they might have had going in to the final stretch of the season has now been thoroughly flattened. Their morale and health could be a concern moving forward. Club America got a nice win yesterday but achieved it in incredibly unimpressive fashion. This was a big game on the big stage, and they once again underperformed. When it comes to the Liguilla, I wouldn’t expect America to rise to the occasion. Another disappointing exit is likely in the future.