Five lessons from Chivas' preseason thus far
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- When Chivas kicks off the Apertura 2014 against Chiapas on July 20, fans should expect a very different side from the one that played in the Clausura under Ricardo La Volpe.
Incoming Argentine coach Carlos Bustos is swiftly implementing tactical and stylistic changes to the team, greatly aided by the six new first-team signings brought in to help the team avoid relegation and starting fighting at the right end of the table.
On Wednesday in the Estadio Jalisco came the team's first real preseason game, which ended in a 1-1 draw against Veracruz.
Here's what we learned about what to expect from Bustos' new-look Chivas:
Bustos looks set to use a 4-3-3 formation, changing it from La Volpe's three center back system.
On Wednesday, Antonio Rodriguez started ahead of Luis Michel in goal, with Edgar Solis and Omar Esparza the fullbacks and Patricio Araujo and Nestor Vidrio in the center of defense.
In midfield, Israel Castro featured in the midfield holding role, with Fernando Arce (left) and David Toledo (right) the more attack-minded midfielders. Up front, Omar Bravo was on the left, Angel Reyna on the right, with Aldo de Nigris as the central striker.
It's a system that seeks the ball, to take the game to the opposition and should be easy on the eye.
The tempo wasn't quite there on Wednesday, but Chivas played a positive first half with many of their starters, capped by a fine left-footed strike by De Nigris into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area in the 13th minute.
2. Much-improved squad
The options for Bustos both in picking the starting XI and for players coming off the bench is a world away from last season because of the six new signings: David Toledo, Fernando Arce, Sergio Napoles, Angel Reyna, Alberto Garcia and Carlos Salcido.
The balance of the squad has been shifted toward a more experienced, steelier unit that should be more difficult to break down and less inconsistent. If the game needs changing, there will be genuine options on the bench for the first time in many seasons at Chivas.
3. Lack of width
If there is one major worry about the squad, it is that there are no natural wingers to get crosses into De Nigris.
The team was very narrow against Veracruz. Bravo and Reyna provide the width, but both are arguably better in the center. Carlos Fierro and Giovani Hernandez came on against Veracruz, but aren't really natural wingers either.
It wouldn't be as much of a problem if Chivas had fullbacks to overlap and add significantly to the attack, but they don't.
Considering Chivas will almost undoubtedly be improved from recent seasons, it perhaps seems harsh to start criticizing a club that has been bashed black and blue by local media over the past few years... but for a club dedicated to producing and giving a chance to youth players, the fact Jorge "Chaton" Enriquez, Fierro and Hernandez are all set to start the season on the bench is disconcerting. And there is even the chance Michel will replace Rodriguez in net.
The star attraction for Chivas this coming season, Reyna was largely quiet against his former club Veracruz, but there are signs he is very much warming to the challenge at Chivas. He showed flashes of his talent and has made it very clear on social media he is delighted to be at the club.
How Reyna develops promises to be a storyline to follow this season for Chivas.
-- According to widespread reports, Jose Luis "Guero" Real and his brother Hector Real have left or are set to leave the club, although there has been no official word as yet from Chivas.
-- Chivas will once again be operating a team in Mexico's second division next season. The club purchased Deportivo Tepic and immediately sent 20 players on loan there. The idea is that the "Coras" will act as a bridge between the under-20 league and the Liga MX. "Bofo" Bautista will also feature for the new team.
-- Salcido returned from the World Cup and declined the opportunity to take a break ahead of joining the squad. He'll start training with the team immediately.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.