Chivas secure statement win over Veracruz in the Supercopa MX
LOS ANGELES -- Chivas will represent the Liga MX in next season's Copa Libertadores after defeating Veracruz 2-0 in the Supercopa MX on Sunday at StubHub Center, while Tigres defeated Pachuca 1-0 in the Campeon de Campeones tie in front of 27,167 fans at the same venue.
The double-header was a curtain-raiser for the Liga MX Apertura 2016, which starts next weekend.
Here's a look at how each performed and what lies ahead:
Chivas can mount a title challenge
With off-the-field issues hanging over the club in the build-up to the Supercopa MX, the victory over Veracruz came as a much-needed boost for Matias Almeyda's side.
Firstly, Chivas' ownership and coaching staff are desperate to become the first Mexican side ever to lift the Libertadores and this deserved win secured the Guadalajara club's place in the 2017 edition of the competition. It gives the institution a focus, aside from domestic league play.
And then in terms of the upcoming Apertura 2016 -- which Chivas kick off next Sunday against Pumas -- this was a shot of confidence. Chivas players and fans -- who packed the bleachers of the StubHub Center -- celebrated the Supercopa trophy effusively and the signs are good that this Chivas side can challenge for its first Liga MX title since 2006 in this upcoming season.
Orbelin Pineda was the man-of-the-match and Chivas will be the beneficiaries of the fact that the 20-year-old won't be featuring for the Mexican national team at the Olympics. Pineda netted the first and was the attacking impetus of the side, thrusting forward at Veracruz.
But the real difference for Chivas now is the bench. The likes of Javier "Chofis" Lopez, Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez, Miguel Ponce, Nestor Calderon and Omar Bravo are all players that would be starters at many other Liga MX clubs, yet they were on the bench for Chivas on Sunday.
If there is an obvious weakness, it is perhaps up front, where Angel Zaldivar is still to prove himself as a first division goal-scorer and Omar Bravo -- who tapped in Chivas' second late on -- is coming to the end of his career at 36-years old.
Nevertheless, Sunday's match was a reminder that this should be a Chivas side that can compete with the Liga MX big spenders and is slowly beginning to get accustomed to winning trophies.
Veracruz failed to take chances
The 2-0 scoreline wasn't kind on the Tiburones Rojos, who had their chances to equalize against Chivas, noticeably through Julio Furch three minutes after half-time. But it wasn't enough and Chivas were deserved winners, even if Veracruz had a sustained period of pressure in the second half.
With the Liga MX's new 10-8 rule dictating that eight Mexico-born players per 18-man squad must be named, Veracruz tested the boundaries with seven (although U.S.-born Sebastian Saucedo also counted) born in Mexico, with six Argentines and four other South Americans.
Veracruz's style reflects a high degree of foreign influence. Unlike many Mexican sides, they are a direct team and one that has a physically strong spine with Matias Cahais' and Leobardo Lopez's central defensive partnership at the back, Gabriel Penalba in central midfield and Julio Furch up front.
Veracruz probably won't challenge for silverware under Pablo Marini this upcoming Apertura, but they will be difficult to beat.
Tigres fresher after preseason
Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti's side took the Campeon de Campeones title in a game that resembled a preseason outing much more than the early Supercopa match-up.
Tigres have had a full break and preseason for the first time since the end of the Clausura 2015 and the signing of Ismael Sosa has brought plenty of reason for Tigres fans to be excited about the Apertura 2016. Sosa netted the Tigres goal in the 25th minute against Pachuca in a perfect start following his controversial move from Pumas in the offseason.
France international striker Andre-Pierre Gignac was busy in Paris playing the final of the European Championship and when he is back, the options Ferretti has in attack are frightening.
You know what you get from Ferretti's side and Tigres are once again poised to be an the top end of the league.
Tough times ahead for Pachuca?
There are reasons to believe reigning Liga MX champion Pachuca will have a difficult Apertura tournament. Against Tigres on Sunday, the zip wasn't quite there. The reasons were likely down to the Tuzos' shorter preseason and the fact key players Hirving Lozano, Erick Gutierrez , Rodolfo Pizarro, Raul Lopez, Erick Aguirre and Victor Guzman have all been away with Mexico's under-23 squad in preparation for the Olympics.
This was a game in which Pachuca should've been able to do more to level the scores after Guido Pizarro was sent off for Tigres in the 56th minute. But while Pachuca had a couple of opportunities, there was only sporadic pressure on Nahuel Guzman's goal.
The team from Hidalgo is set to lose Lozano, Gutierrez, Pizarro and Aguirre for mid-week preparation with the U23s and then for next month's Olympics, making the panorama for Diego Alonso's side in the first half of the Apertura complicated.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.