FOX Soccer Exclusive
Chivas sacking comes at no surprise
CD Guadalajara manager John van't Schip offered a perilously frank assessment of his side's preparations for the upcoming Clausura campaign in the wake of a 3-2 friendly defeat to Estudiantes Tecos on Sunday.
The beleaguered Dutch coach said he worried about how his team would perform in the season opener against Toluca this weekend. He also wondered aloud whether he would need to change his team for that encounter because the players on the field did not appear ready to confront the challenges ahead.
It turns out his concerns were sorely misplaced a week before the first match of the campaign. Instead of pondering his team's performance, van't Schip should have spent the time tweaking his résumé.
Chivas ushered van't Schip out the door on Thursday after rumors of his departure swept through Mexico earlier in the week. Former manager Benjamin Galindo is expected to return for a second spell in charge as his replacement, though the ex-Santos Laguna boss will be hard pressed to implement any substantial alterations before the opener at Estadio Omnilife on Sunday.
Even when placed in the context of previous moves by the colorful Chivas supremo Jorge Vergara, this particular decision comes as something of a surprise. It isn't a matter of whether van't Schip deserved the sack – he should probably count himself fortunate to have survived the tumultuous Apertura campaign. Given Vergara's penchant for dismissing managers on short notice, few expected van't Schip to make it all the way to the end of the Clausura season. But the timing of this firing raises questions about why Vergara waited as long as he did to make this move.
Only a staggering lack of foresight and a surprising dollop of generosity permitted van't Schip to retain his post through the New Year. Van't Schip's modest latitude evaporated when Vergara dismissed adviser and van't Schip backer Johan Cruyff in early December. Club officials announced van't Schip and his assistants would retain their posts after qualifying for the Liguilla, but van't Schip's dearth of capital among the powerbrokers and the supporters ensured his demise sooner rather than later. Why it occurred at this particularly inopportune time remains a rather inexcusable peculiarity in a long list of them.
Van't Schip isn't the only coach befuddled by how Vergara treats the men he entrusts with his beloved club: managers live on borrowed time in Guadalajara from the date of their appointment. The grand visions espoused by Cruyff and van't Schip never stood a chance under a chairman who has watched sixteen different managerial reigns (including a temporary second spell by Hans Westerhof) unfold since assuming control of Chivas in 2002.
The club – and this assessment extends across to the border to the American branch, too – lurches haphazardly from plan to plan without fully investing in a particular direction for any length of time. Attempts to alter the tumultuous status quo only lead to more turnover. Despite the platitudes about amending its ways and crafting some defined structures to take the side forward for the foreseeable future, Chivas never resists the allure of the quick fix.
The subsequent chaos has resulted in the club performing well below expectations. Chivas last won a title in 2006 andremains one of the two largest sides in Mexico; as well as one of the most significant outfits in the Americas. Yet instead of adopting the machinery required to operate a massive club in this day and age and displaying the composure befitting such an operation, Chivas hinders its cause and limits its achievements by intemperately handling its first-team affairs.
In a bid to compound the humiliation of this particular episode, the awkward managerial shuffle on the eve of the Clausura coincided with ex-Chivas star Francisco Rodríguez's move to Club América. Rodríguez – a key component in Chivas' last championship back in the 2006 Apertura – underscored the current gap between the bitter rivals with his decision to cross the divide between Guadalajara and Mexico City upon his return from Europe.
Given the state of the two clubs, it is little wonder that Rodríguez chose as he did. América enters the Clausura with a solid structure in place under Miguel Herrera, the best center back pairing in the country (until Diego Reyes leaves for FC Porto in the summer) and the joint top scorer in the division during the Apertura in Christian Benítez. Chivas prepares for Toluca's visit with its usual mix of talented players waiting for Galindo to mold them into a unit capable of competing at the upper end of the table.
Perhaps Galindo can somehow conjure up some way to close the margin between the two sides and win the second title of the Vergara era. Van't Schip never found a way to deliver that sort of success; never generated enough goodwill or produced the performances necessary to ensure a genuine title chase. On the bright side, van't Schip's sudden departure does come attached with a perk: he won't have to worry about the problems he observed in Guadalajara any longer.