MEXICO CITY -- Chivas went into Saturday's Clasico Nacional against Club America, the 223rd in history, having won just once in the last nine editions of the rivalry game. But it was Rebano Sagrado coach Matias Almeyda celebrating stoically from the sidelines at the end of the night as his side completed a 0-3 route over America at Estadio Azteca.
The loss leaves a sour taste for Las Aguilas, who are in the midst of centennial celebrations. For Chivas, the resounding win represents a consolidation of Almeyda's project with the Guadalajara side.
"Almeyda has done a lot. He has changed our attitude and mentality. The mentality he has is amazing because he wants us to be a team that never gives up and to be a team that is always a protagonist," said Chivas' captain Jair Pereira to ESPN FC on the eve of Saturday's battle.
"He always talks about fighting against the system, against all the bad that can be found in football, and all of this support has given us a huge amount of confidence. To hear a person, who played in Europe, say that the Mexican footballer is capable to do great things gives us tranquility."
On Saturday night, Chivas played with a lot of tranquility and conviction, the likes of which were simply never seen in America's XI. Chivas' style of football prevented Las Aguilas from catching their breath. On the night that America had to play like a club that was celebrating its centennial, it was its nemesis who starred, leaving almost half of the Azteca in complete shock.
The final score read 0-3 for Los Rojiblancos but it could have been worse had America's goalkeeper, Moises Munoz, been less sharp in the second half. A day before the match, Munoz warned of Chivas' youngsters and how their speed could cause damage on America's defense; his warning was actually spot on.
America's head coach Ignacio Ambriz attempted to downplay the defeat by saying that the season was barely at the midway point yet it was hard to ignore the facts: even though the team took five shots on goal and ended with more possession than Chivas, Los Azulcremas' football was nowhere near as effective or fluid as their opponents.
When Almeyda took center stage in the press conference room, he looked visibly proud and immediately revealed something he'd been wanting to say for quite some time.
"I'm a foreigner, and I believe more in the Mexican footballer than many Mexicans. The game that the players gave tonight is one that should get framed because we only had two relatively old players -- one was 30 and the other 29. Everyone else was of a younger age," he emphasized.
Two of the players who have benefited from Almeyda's trust in young Mexican footballers are midfielder Michael Perez and striker Angel Zaldivar. Almeyda has preferred Perez over more experienced teammates like Jose Juan Vazquez and Nestor Calderon, while Zaldivar has been Almeyda's chosen one to take over the place left behind by Chivas's historic goalscorer, Omar Bravo.
Since Almeyda's arrival at Chivas, the 23-year-old Perez has learned a lot from his coach. "He was a great player, and he tells me that he sees himself in me because I play like he used to play. I really didn't get to see him when he was a player. Actually I started watching videos of him once he was my coach. He was a warrior, a hard player to knock down; I try to be like him," he said.
Zaldivar started off the season slowly but already has three goals in the 2016 Apertura as well as a senior national team call-up, and his performance against America was crucial in helping Isaac Brizuela and Carlos Pena get on the scoresheet. He highlighted the team's unity as one of the main reasons why Chivas has improved under Almeyda's watch.
"I have to put emphasis on the union the team always shows, everybody's commitment. Over here, nobody gives up, nobody tones down their intensity, and that's why we're getting good results," Zaldivar noted.
Ambriz may be correct on his assessment and decision to not fall into the trap of desperation, but America has a three-game winless streak at home. During that winless streak it suffered two 0-3 defeats, where America did have a lot of possession of the ball but hardly created anything of substance. The club has only scored once in its last three home games, conceding seven goals.
Meanwhile, the win over America allows Chivas to dream big and to continue solidifying the ideals that Almeyda wants to instill in his squad.
"Chivas always plays with humility; Chivas is playing united; Chivas is playing with sacrifice; Chivas plays with love for its colors; Chivas represents a country," said Almeyda, elaborating on how he views his Chivas side and what he considers his long-term ambitions as head coach of the all-Mexican club.
"I hope that these performances are followed by a title and show that with young Mexican footballers you can win. We're going to try until the very end."