Dignified defeat for Chivas vs. Bayern
A world away from the relegation threat hanging over the club back in Mexico, Chivas lost 1-0 on Thursday to Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich in New Jersey. Manager Carlos Bustos will have reinforced what he already knew about his team: Chivas are now an experienced, solid Liga MX team following an overhaul of the squad over the last 18 months.
Gone is the youthful zeal, tinged with inconsistency, which helped Chivas defeat Guardiola's Barcelona 4-1 in 2011, replaced by a unit that will grind out results, at least in Mexico.
When your team is fighting for survival, it is probably better to count on the latter, but it doesn't necessarily help in these kind of friendlies.
The irony is that Chivas' brightest young hope, Carlos Fierro, had two golden opportunities to snatch an equalizer in the last 15 minutes, but wasted both, looking visibly out of confidence on each attempt.
In general, Chivas struggled to cope when European champion Bayern Munich -- playing without its German World Cup heroes and the Netherlands' Arjen Robben -- decided to stretch itself in the team's first outing of the preseason.
The game was far from friendly in nature, with tackles flying in and Jair Pereira was lucky to still be on the field at halftime, when he was sensibly taken off by Bustos.
The Argentine manager started with the same 5-2-3 formation that reaped rewards against Pumas last Sunday and Chivas began brightly, until some poor marking from Carlos Salcido allowed Peruvian Claudio Pizarro to nip in at the front post and head in the winner from Franck Ribery's corner in the 10th minute.
Apart from that mistake, Salcido was Chivas' best player by a distance, oozing class. It wasn't difficult to spot which Chivas defender had played in Europe and has a wealth of international experience.
Unsurprisingly, Ribery was the German side's most frequent source of danger, gliding down the left wing with his usual grace on the ball.
Chivas again had difficulty creating chances and with fluidity in the final third.
The tandem of Omar Bravo on the left and Aldo de Nigris as the number nine is static and slow and it was no coincidence that when Sergio Napoles came on down the left and Fierro upfront, Chivas almost immediately started to have opportunities at goal.
Next Wednesday's friendly in Houston against AC Milan could be an ideal opportunity to start both Napoles and Fierro, ahead of the resumption of Chivas' Liga MX campaign a week on Saturday in Pachuca.
Aside from the prestige that Chivas gained as an institution, the experience of playing a top team and making a game of it can't have done any harm moving forward.