Four keys to Guadalajara’s triumphant return

  • ​Chivas Guadalajara have been transformed after frustrating decade

  • Strong appointments have built platform for success

  • On the brink of capping off turnaround with CONCACAF Champions League title

In the 11 seasons they went without winning the league title, between the 2006 Apertura title and the 2017 Clausura, Guadalajara had to endure the sight of arch-rivals Club America overtaking them as Mexico’s most decorated club.

Nursing their wounded pride, Chivas embarked on the road to recovery in September 2015, laying the foundations for one of the most glorious periods in their recent history, a period they are now hoping to cap with an international title.

Ahead of the second leg of the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League final against Toronto FC, and with one eye on the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates later in the year, we look at the secrets to Chivas’ recent success.

The Almeyda factor Finding themselves closer to relegation than the league title, Guadalajara turned to Matias Almeyda for salvation. The Argentinian arrived in the middle of the 2015 Apertura season and made his presence felt immediately.

Putting his faith in the club’s youngsters and listening to what his players had to say, he filled the dressing room with fresh belief, as reflected by a four-match winning streak, one of those victories coming in the national clasico against America.

Almeyda secured his first trophy less than two months after arriving at the club, with an Oswaldo Alanis goal giving Guadalajara victory over Leon in the Apertura Copa MX final on 4 November 2015.

Continuity and a successful transfer policy The Guadalajara directors had complete faith in their Argentinian coach and, with an eye on the medium term, began signing experienced players to complement the talents produced by its youth set-up, a hallmark of the club, which fields only Mexican players.

Brought in from Pachuca, goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota quickly made himself indispensable, while Carlos Salcido enjoyed a new lease of life in taking over as the leader of the back line. Adding to the spine of the side was Rodolfo Pizarro in midfield, with Alan Pulido also being brought in to spearhead the attack.

An unforgettable 2017 Though 2016 was a trophyless year, there were clear signs that Guadalajara were on the right track. They returned to the Copa MX final the following year and won it, this time in a penalty shoot-out against Monarcas Morelia.

But that was not all. A month after the joy of lifting the Liga MX trophy again, Chivas beat Tigres 4-3 on aggregate to win the 2017 Clausura play-off final and join America as the most successful club in Mexican league history with 12 titles.

International expansion plans With that championship win came a place in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League, where the objective was very clear from the start: to add an international dimension to the success of the Almeyda era.

Guadalajara have come into their own in the competition, showing a new level of maturity, thanks to players who know each other’s games inside out and the team’s tactical flexibility.

When it comes to defending, Chivas have been hard to break down, conceding just two goals in their seven games in the competition to date. And when it comes to attacking, they have shown just how much damage they can cause, scoring 13 goals in all.

In the first leg of the final, they did what no side had previously managed in the competition: beat Toronto FC in their own backyard. Guadalajara are now just a few hours away from achieving a goal they set themselves three years ago. Can they keep the good times rolling and advance to the FIFA Club World Cup later this year, as CONCACAF representatives?

That question will be answered on Wednesday 25 April, when they host the Canadians in the second leg of the final. And as the followers of El Rebano Sagrado ('The Sacred Herd') look forward in anticipation of that return fixture, there is no question that they have every right to be dreaming of big things.