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Chivas still in series against Atlas, but winless streak a concern

Goal.com logo Goal.com 12-05-2017

For the sixth consecutive Liga MX match Chivas failed to get a victory, falling 1-0 Thursday to rival Atlas in the first leg of the Clausura quarterfinals.

Chivas fans may wave this off. The goal came from a penalty that was debatable, and while Atlas had the run of the first half at the Estadio Jalisco, Chivas were able to claw their way back. The second leg is at home, and all the Rebano Sagrado need is a 1-0 result to move on thanks to its superior regular-season finish.

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Despite coach Matias Almeyda's insistence to the contrary, the winless streak is concerning. His team looked to have depth as it started the season strong and led the league for several weeks during the regular season. But that depth has been tested and failed, with winger-forward Angel Zaldivar and playmaker Rodolfo Pizarro sidelined by leg injuries and Isaac Brizuela and Carlos Cisneros also not fit for the matchday squad. Carlos Fierro and 18-year-old Edson Torres have had brief moments but haven't been able to find sustained success. Lately, they haven't found success at all. The last two goals Chivas scored both came from center back Oswaldo Alanis who, while talented, can hardly be Plan A or Plan B for finding the back of the net.

And with Alanis' center back partner Jair Pereira forced off after 15 minutes with a hamstring problem, it isn't only the attacking depth being tested but also the strength at the back. Atlas' Matias Alustiza — who converted from the spot in the 30th minute to give the Zorros the advantage heading into Sunday's second leg — and Daniel Alvarez found their chances, with Chivas goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota a crucial factor in keeping the scoreline as close as it was early.

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While recognizing his team was second-best in the opening 45 minutes, Almeyda is confident Chivas will be able to overcome their Guadalajara rivals and move into the semifinals.

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"I think Guadalajara found the footballing level that characterized us at times during the tournament, especially in the second half. We had a lot more scoring opportunities, in the second half I don't remember any from the opposition," the coach said. "They played their game at 1-0 but the series is still open."

With the second leg at the Estadio Chivas it's certainly still anyone's series, but the biggest thing that was different about the Chivas that showed up at the start of the Clausura and the one we're seeing now is that the earlier incarnations were able to find victories, to set up more dangerous chances and to convert them.

Almeyda has won over Chivas fans with his style, based on defense but able to attack with speed. Except now that the latter is only half-true, Chivas are a much easier team to face off against. Look no further than the first Clasico Tapatio in the Jalisco earlier this season to see what Zaldivar and Pizarro provided to the team, especially in terms of interplay with forward Alan Pulido, who lately has been reduced to making runs toward posts and hoping the fullbacks are able to find him with crosses.

There's a chance one of the attackers will be fit enough to return — and at this point it looks like without some sort of spark Chivas will have trouble seeing off a well-drilled Atlas team that adjusted well to its own debilitating injury when Rafa Marquez's season ended early.

The win earlier this season in the Copa MX combined with good results in the tournament will mean there's little heat on Almeyda, and there shouldn't be. The Argentine has reinvigorated a historically great club that had fallen from those ranks.

But fans were dreaming of a double, and unless he's able to find a way to inject some life into his attack, those dreams will be dashed by their rival across town.

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