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Apr 28, 2014

Chivas to face relegation battle next season

GUADALAJARA -- All fell into line for Chivas over the weekend, at least until late Sunday afternoon. Having scored just 13 goals in 16 games and won only five matches, Guadalajara had only to defeat a Monterrey side playing for pride to make it into the postseason of the Clausura 2014.

It didn’t happen, with an Efrain Juarez headed goal -- his first in the Liga MX -- handing Los Rayados a late victory in an Estadio Omnilife, which emptied very quickly and booed Chivas off the pitch.

Chivas won’t be in the playoffs for the third consecutive season and face yet another overhaul in the upcoming offseason, this time overseen by Ricardo La Volpe and Francisco Palencia.

The match against Monterrey pretty much encapsulated Chivas’ whole season in 90 minutes. The team lacked a killer instinct and invention in midfield, and was dull for long periods. The side spluttered along and seemed to feel the pressure of needing the win, instead of thriving on it.

The tension spilled over on the halftime whistle, when captain Omar Bravo and Patricio Araujo, sometimes the stand-in captain, exchanged heated words and shoving.

It didn’t look good and perhaps stemmed from the fact that but for a couple of key interventions from keeper Antonio Rodriguez, Monterrey would’ve put the game beyond Chivas in the first half.

Even after the break, Chivas increased the intensity, brought Carlos Fierro on for Giovani Hernandez, attacked more, but the honest truth is that this team is lacking, suffering from the absences of Jair Pereira, Gerardo Rodriguez and Jorge Enriquez and in need of players that fit La Volpe’s style and system.

In fairness to the current squad, it can’t be easy to adapt to the succession of managers and coaches coming in and out of the club and asking different things of them.

The top priority this offseason should be to find players who can create. In essence, Marco Fabian still needs replacing. Youngster Hernandez was taken off at halftime and is inconsistent, despite his talent.

Up front, there is an argument to be made that Aldo de Nigris needs a partner with the characteristics and, ideally, the quality of Humberto Suazo. He’s fought a losing battle all season and requires better support.

A left wing back will also be on La Volpe’s shopping list, as well as a defensive midfielder with more dynamism than Israel Castro.

If the lack of postseason soccer in Guadalajara isn’t enough to spark club owner Jorge Vergara into reaching into the depth of his pockets for his checkbook, then one look at the relegation table for the 2014-15 season should be.

Chivas are currently only above Puebla -- by three points -- heading into the new season. The likes of Chiapas and Atlas are ahead of the Rebano Sagrado.

Once again, a summer of rebuilding is in store at Chivas. The difference this time is that if it doesn’t work out, the Mexican giant could conceivably go the same way of River Plate in Argentina and head down to the second division.