America title a reminder that Chivas have much to do
Mexico City's Club America won a quite remarkable Liga MX final against Cruz Azul Sunday evening, with goalkeeper Moises Munoz the hero after heading in an injury time-winner to take the game into extra time.
Las Aguilas' penalty shoot-out victory had wide-ranging implications over in Guadalajara. Shortly after the victory, hundreds of America fans took to La Minerva fountain -- the traditional celebration spot for Chivas triumphs -- to sing, dance and generally be gleeful.
But this wasn't just fans celebrating a single title. It was the celebration of the fact that America is now level with Chivas as Mexico's most successful club with 11 titles.
The rivalry between the clubs is well-known and roughly summed up by explaining that America is the big, rich club from the capital, Mexico City, with its array of highly-paid foreigners and Chivas is the provincial, all-Mexican club of more humble origins.
That is obviously a generalization, but you get the idea.
Now those jazzy marketing slogans stating that Guadalajara is the most successful club in the land no longer fit. Potential new ones declaring Chivas "the joint most successful team in Mexico" don't really have the same kind of ring to them.
But the most worrying aspect of the America victory is that Las Aguilas are within one title of overtaking Chivas and grabbing the title of Mexico's successful club -- something Chivas fans have clung to dearly.
Taking a step back and analyzing the squads, it would take a bold person to predict Chivas will be the next of the "big two" to win a title. America, at present, is a few steps ahead, investing heavily in both youth infrastructure and expensive players of international quality.
Not one Chivas player will be involved in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers for Mexico, while America has seven traveling to different corners of the continent.
Another example of the gulf that exists is Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez, who on Sunday became the first player to win a league title with both America and Chivas -- where he helped Guadalajara to its 11th title in the Apertura 2006.
Now a figure of hate among the Rebano Sagrado faithful, Rodriguez openly admitted that on return to Mexico from the Bundesliga in January he was attracted to America's project over that of Chivas.
"Of course Chivas was after me, but the most important project I saw was the one America presented," the player told ESPN Deportes.
It was a devastating statement and one from Rodriguez's point of view has been justified. However much it hurts Chivas fans, Rodriguez is once again champion in Mexico.
So what now for Chivas? How to bridge that gap between a team in America that looks set to continue to challenge under manager Miguel Herrera and a Chivas side that just finished the Clausura season in 17th position?
One glimmer of hope is the fact that the Chivas youth system remains strong. The Under-20s claimed the Liga MX title in its age-group on Saturday and boasts some notable talents like Giovani Hernandez, Erick "Cubo" Torres, Juan Miguel Basulto and Antonio Rodriguez. But their integration into the first team needs to be gradual and all have already had a certain degree of problems moving up to the Liga MX.
Chivas' first team players returned to the club on Monday after a two-week break, to take the routine medical tests ahead of the start of the preseason on Wednesday.
So far, only defender Nestor Vidrio has been confirmed as arriving at the club to strengthen the squad. Others need to follow if Chivas aren't going to be left behind once again.
Now, perhaps more than ever in light of America's victory, Chivas' owners need to dig deep into their pockets and produce some top quality signings. That 12th title isn't going to win itself.