Chivas de Guadalajara entered their Liga MX Clausura 2014 opener away against Santos Laguna needing to start off with a good result in order to establish some positive vibes and feelings about the team with regards to the confidence and support of their fans and to make them feel good about their preseason work under coach Jose Luis Real. While my season preview article forgot to mention Santos as a favorite to win the title, they are certainly up there with Leon, Club America, and Tigres UANL as favorites.
All Chivas did was come out, look like an actual team with an actual tactical identity and began the Clausura 2014 on the right foot with a well earned and deserved point in drawing 1-1 against Santos. The Chivas starting eleven only offered one surprise from the one which many projected to see on Friday night as Real opted to start Jesus Sanchez at full-back over Kristian Alvarez who was assumed to start given reports of how the team lined up in practice this week. Otherwise, Real fielded the team in a 4-4-2 formation which would be a 4-2-4 formation when Chivas was attacking.
Chivas helped themselves by scoring two minutes into the game as Omar Bravo marked his return with a goal when Carlos Fierro delivered a dangerous pass from the right wing. This play was not Fierro’s only contribution during the game as Fierro proved to be a constant and regular threat down the right wing in what was a man of the match performance while continuing to show maturity in his play.
One of the many issues that plagued Chivas last season during the Apertura 2013 was the play of their central midfielders. In came veteran Israel Castro to partner with Jorge Enriquez who has shown promise but injuries and lack of discipline at times have seen his progress halted. Their play tonight was of the highest order as they did well to control and halt Santos attacks while helping to start Chivas counters. Like the central midfield the play of the defense was horrendous last season. Against the Santos, Chivas showed they have done some serious work in their defensive work during the preseason.
Patricio Araujo, who played as a holding midfielder but played as a central defender coming up through the youth ranks, did a real good job of marking Oribe Peralta and keeping Peralta from being the threat is upfront on Friday night. While Chivas were caught on the back foot a couple of times, it was clear that Real has worked on getting the back line to defend as a unit. Then there were questions of 21-year-old goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez as to whether he was ready to be the No. 1 shot stopper.
All Rodriguez did was make some very good saves — especially two late in the first half — while also showing a lot of confidence and assertiveness in managing the penalty area. Aside from potentially having won the game, Chivas and Real could not have asked for a better start to the season given the lead up to their opener on Friday night. If Chivas continue to play with the same effort, commitment, and tactical discipline they showed against Santos on Friday night, they should be able to leave the threat of relegation in the rear-view mirror.