Luis Michel walked off the field on Sunday quietly; with his head down he gave a glimpse of relief as another season ended. Underperforming has been a Chivas trademark as of late and a string of back-to-back defeats puts them at the same point they were last season, square one.
For Michel, this season was the worst since the 2009 Apertura where he conceded 29 goals. That season Chivas finished 14th in the table and well out contention for a liguilla spot. Despite allowing 22 goals, Michel was key to qualifying to the liguilla this season after missing the cut last season.
His play throughout the year salvaged various draws and at times Chivas escaped defeat thanks to his contribution. His performances over the last three games have exposed just how bad the defense is, as well as his value to the team. I first saw Michel in person when he played against the Houston Dynamo in 2008. Michel controlled the box and his presence was evident from kick-off to the final whistle.
At the time he had a younger Hector Reynoso, Omar Esparza was still a promising prospect and Patricio Araujo was coming up the ranks. Now, the defense is plagued by an unbalanced line-up and Michel is the thread holding them together.
Take his performance against Leon, against the top team in the league he saved various shots and at that point gave the team a marquee victory. He followed up that performance throughout the season against America, Tigres and internationally in the CONCACAF Champions League. Sure, Chivas was eliminated and that was due to the team’s susceptibility to free kicks. Xelaju exposed that really well and recently Sinha embarrassed Chivas with a great goal from a dead-ball.
So where does this leave Michel? He is key to the current redevelopment/reconstruction of the team. He is a figure who leads by example by his hustle and ability to provide when called upon. Chivas would benefit greatly from more players with his demeanor and approach to the club. For now Michel will take it one shot at a time. He is only able to work with what he has in front of him and it’s not much.
So, as the Cruyff project continues the Chivas faithful can remain confident in the man protecting the three posts. The search for transfer signings begin and another season awaits the best Chivas player this season.