Chivas' focus shifts to Sounders after Clasico Nacional draw
GUADALAJARA -- Chants from jubilant Chivas fans could be heard as Club America coach Miguel Herrera began his postmatch news conference in the bowels of Estadio Akron after the 1-1 draw in the Clasico Nacional on Saturday.
There was an irony that the home fans went home so happy, given that the tie means Chivas are practically out of the Liga MX 2018 Clausura playoff reckoning and Guadalajara had just extended its winless run in the league to seven games.
But the joy was understandable. Liga MX's biggest game was a festival of attacking football; defensive purists would have left depressed, but as a spectacle seeing Chivas and Club America match each other blow for blow as the teams exchanged chances was justified reason for cheer.
The context here is also important. Chivas came into the game in 17th position in Liga MX against an undefeated and league-leading America. The suggestion was that this would be a one-sided Clasico, but those fears were completely unfounded. In the end, a draw was a fair result and the performance will have been a boost to Chivas, even if they needed more to remain in the playoff hunt.
"We played against a great opponent, with excellent players and backed our youngsters," said Chivas coach Matias Almeyda afterwards. "In general the team was very good, the opponent didn't get the better of us and in moments we got the better of them. It was a really good game, played as a Clasico should be."
For Chivas, who only play with Mexican nationals, the result has shifted the focus of the season. The point leaves Chivas down in 16th in the league, seven points off the playoff spots. In other words, qualifying for the Liguilla will now require a minor miracle.
Chivas' only shot at salvaging a poor Clausura lies in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) and the series against Seattle Sounders -- the first leg is next Wednesday in Seattle -- now takes centre stage.
"We know [Seattle] is a very good team with very good players, but we trust in our game" said Almeyda. "We know that in the cup you can't slip up and starting tomorrow we'll prepare for the game, which motivates us a lot."
The dynamism, speed and youth of the Chivas forward line we saw against Club America will worry the Sounders, although the Guadalajara team still looks shaky in defense and Las Aguilas could have easily won on Saturday.
"The team has been playing good football for a while, it's a team that plays as a unit and I'm optimistic," stated Almeyda, who nevertheless admitted a draw wasn't a satisfactory result.
For Club America, the undefeated streak continues in Liga MX and there is to be no slacking in the CCL, even if they do have the easiest quarterfinal draw on paper, against Panama's Tauro FC.
"[The CONCACAF Champions League] is very important," Club America and U.S. international midfielder Joe Corona told ESPN FC after the game. "It's as important as the regular [Liga MX] tournament. We want to go to the Club World Cup, so hopefully we can win both tournaments."
Las Aguilas are in the reassuring position of not hitting their best form, but picking up results. There is more to come from Herrera's team and, given the way the season is shaping up both domestically and in the CCL, that has to be viewed as a positive.
The only possibility that we'll see Chivas and Club America meet again this season is if both reach the final of the CCL. It's not likely given Chivas' inability to win of late, but a run in the CCL for the Guadalajara club shouldn't be ruled out if it can build on the positives from Saturday.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.