Chivas remain positive as pressure ratchets up
GUADALAJARA, Mexico - With relegation a threat and every negative result amplified, Chivas midfielder Israel Castro has decided not to read the local press in Guadalajara. The veteran made that clear in the club's special mixed zone on Tuesday.
"In the end, it's sensationalist, aimed at selling [newspapers]," Castro told reporters at Chivas' training complex in Guadalajara. "I prefer to focus on my job."
He added: "Negativity doesn't get us anywhere. Being positive like we have been will make us change and improve."
Castro continued by stressing the team has only played three games this Apertura, that four points isn't disastrous, and it is too early to judge Carlos Bustos and the updated version of Chivas, bolstered by seven new faces this past offseason. That was before Tuesday's 3-1 loss away to sister club Coras de Tepic in the Copa MX, which only sparked a new wave of criticism.
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The general tone went a little like this: How could a fairly strong Chivas team fall in such a meek manner to a second division side made up of players from Guadalajara's own youth system and a veteran in Adolfo "Bofo" Bautista -- named man of the match by ESPN -- who has long been considered past his prime?
Thirty-three-year-old Castro -- who is at his third of Mexico's "big four" teams -- has won the Liga MX four times, boasts almost 50 caps for El Tri and is articulate. Deep down, he must understand that when a team the size of Chivas has been so mediocre for such a length of time, relegation becomes an issue. And with losses to second division sides, it is natural that such questions will be asked, and the scrutiny from the press increases.
The same would be the case if the roles were reversed and Club America -- currently top of the league and buzzing from the sale of Raul Jimenez to Atletico Madrid -- was in Chivas' position. It comes with the territory of being one of Mexico's "big two" clubs. The only solution is to start winning soccer matches.
That starts on Sunday against Santos Laguna in the Estadio Omnilife.
Four keys to victory for Chivas
1. Capitalizing on a bright start
Chivas began well against Pachuca last weekend in the 3-0 loss but ran out of steam, and perhaps confidence, as their inability to hit the back of the net gripped.
At home in front of a Guadalajara public whose patience is fast running out with the side, an early goal or two against Santos' Oswaldo Sanchez -- a player who once lifted a title for Chivas -- would set the tone.
2. Getting it right up front
Chivas' biggest problem recently has been scoring goals. Center forward Aldo de Nigris has scored just four goals in 29 appearances since joining, while Carlos Fierro has three in 70 Liga MX games and Omar Bravo has three in 15 games since returning. Bustos has to find a new formula. That could include winger Sergio Napoles coming into the starting side, but the truth is there aren't too many options for Bustos to play with.
3. Making the most of Angel Reyna
Continuing from the last point, the 29-year-old is the player charged with creating the opportunities at goal, and he has been a positive so far, without really doing anything exceptional.
The key to exploiting Reyna's ability is partly in finding the right position for him. The debate is still on as to whether that is on the right wing or through the center just behind De Nigris.
4. Defensive concentration
The defeat to Pachuca brought up some defensive concerns, particularly with Jair Pereira, who was taken off after 45 minutes. The last thing the club requires is a defensive crisis to match the problems scoring goals. Bustos will want to see the usual solidity restored.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.