Chivas not concerned with relegation
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Catching Club America, winning the championship and righting the wrongs of the Johan Cruyff era.
Those are the concerns and realistic goals of Chivas at present, according to owner Jorge Vergara; not the relegation battle and not the fact that only a little more than 3,000 fans turned up for Wednesday's 2-1 Copa MX victory over a Zacatepec 'B' team in the Estadio Omnilife.
"We are a long way from thinking about relegation, we think about the championship," Vergara defiantly told ESPN's Raza Deportiva on Thursday. "We have the resources to take this [project] forward."
Vergara told fans not to worry and that Chivas will even catch archrival America, despite Las Aguilas having won five out of five matches so far this Apertura 2014.
"We'll catch up, don't worry -- there is no distance that can't be reached," he added.
The reality is that championships and catching an America team that has been frightening in its efficiency recently -- winning games, fighting for titles, as well as producing top players for export to Europe -- seem a long way away.
Chivas sit third from the bottom of the relegation table -- worked out by average points per game over three years (six tournaments) - just two points above Puebla and Leones Negros (a side that has just been promoted and would only need a couple of wins to leapfrog Chivas).
Of course, there is a long way to go (30 regular-season games) before one team goes down, and Chivas, on paper, should be able to put together a run of form in that time to get them out of trouble considering the quality of players they now have.
And Vergara believes that once the team does start winning, fans will flock to the Estadio Omnilife, which has been the subject of consistent jokes on social networks for attracting attendances out of sync with the club's size and popularity.
He sees a clear path to improvement at the club and believes a change in fortune on the field is just around the corner.
The problem is that Chivas fans have heard this kind of talk before, most notably when Vergara hired Johan Cruyff as an adviser to the club in February 2012.
"Chivas will be better than Barcelona, that is why we'll give Johan Cruyff time," said Vergara, again on Raza Deportiva, at the time. "I'm not an idiot. Cruyff knows about football, and I place my confidence in him."
The relationship lasted 10 months and ended acrimoniously, with Vergara telling Raza Deportiva on Thursday that it was his worst mistake in charge of the club and one the institution is still recovering from.
But as much as Vergara claims that an on-field improvement is imminent, relegation remains a very real issue. At present, Chivas are being drawn towards that particular black hole due to the negative momentum surrounding the club.
Big and real decisions need to be made about the continuation of inexperienced manager Carlos Bustos if the poor results -- Chivas are in 15th place in the Liga MX -- continue, as well as whether there should be another major investment in the playing staff when the next transfer window rolls around this winter.
There is no longer much a margin for error with these decisions, either. The time for boastful talk and almost boxer-esque manifestations of invincibility is over. In a way, it only adds to the pressure on the players. Chivas need to suck it up, find some humility and get on with the job at hand: surviving in the Liga MX.
That starts with an improved performance and ideally three points away at Veracruz on Saturday.
Tom Marshall has been based in Guadalajara since 2008 and has written about Mexican football ever since. Find him on Twitter @MexicoWorldCup.