Examining the coaching history of new Chivas USA manager Jose Luis Real

Meet the new boss. - Otto Greule Jr

What has been the track record of Chivas USA's new coach?

Now that Jose Luis Real is in town and coaching Chivas USA, I thought it would be instructive to look at his coaching history. Much like Chelís, Real has spent his entire coaching career to this point in Mexico, and has spent most of his career in just one city. In Real's case, that city is Guadalajara, where he grew up, played as a professional, and spent most of his coaching career.

In a playing career lasting from 1972 to 1985, Real suited up as a midfielder for Chivas de Guadalajara and cross-town rival Atlas. His stint at Chivas has been called a "dark age" for the lack of accomplishments racked up during that span, something that is arguably being matched in the current Vergara era (with a couple of key exceptions). Meanwhile, as a player with Atlas, Real also did not obtain any silverware, either, although the rojinegros haven't won a first-division league title since 1951.

Real became the head coach of Atlas in 1989. He took over in the middle of the 1988-89 season, and finished that term with a 3-9-3 mark, as Atlas finished the campaign in last place in their group. He was replaced the following season by Uruguayan Luis Garisto.

"El Güero," as Real is known, then stayed out of first team coaching for quite some time, before taking the helm at Dorados de Sinaloa in 2004 (their first time in the Mexican Primera). Like his previous coaching stint, Real took over in the middle of a season, this time for the final five matches of the 2004 Apertura, with Dorados going 1-2-2 to end the campaign. The club finished fifth out of six teams in their group that season.

The following season, the 2005 Clausura, Real started the term, but after going 1-4-2 in the first seven games, he was replaced midseason by Carlos Bracamontes. In all that season, Dorados finished fourth in their group, just three points out of a liguilla berth.

Real's most successful stint as a coach to date came with Chivas de Guadalajara. Taking over in the 2009 Apertura, a season where Chivas had three different coaches, Real came in at the end of the campaign to lead Guadalajara to a 1-1-1 record. The team finished third in their group, just out of a playoff place, but they were 14th in the overall standings.

The following season, the 2010 Bicentenario, represented a substantial improvement for Chivas. Real, at the helm the entire season, finished with a 10-5-2 record, good for second place overall and first in their group, ensuring qualification for the liguilla. It is interesting to note that they started the regular season off very well, with an eight-game winning streak, but limped to the finish with five losses in their last six games. Still, they made it to the playoffs, but the late-season slide seemed to extend into the postseason, as they were blown away in the first round by Morelia by a 5-2 aggregate score.

Real remained coach in the 2010 Apertura, and the results weren't as good, as they finished with a 4-3-10 record, good for fourth in their group and 10th place overall, meaning they didn't make the playoffs. Most notably, in the team's final 12 games, they tied nine times. Obviously a few more wins would have made a substantial difference in their season.

In a remarkable stint of stability for Chivas under Vergara, Real stayed aboard as coach for the 2011 Clausura, remaining the entire season, as they finished 6-4-7. It put them in third place in their group and eighth overall, but that was good enough to see them make the liguilla. This time, they won their first round series, against Tigres, 4-2, but fell to eventual champion Pumas in the semifinals 3-1 on aggregate.

Real's stint with Chivas came to an end during the 2011 Apertura. After beginning the season with a 5-3-3 record, he was fired in October and Fernando Quirarte took over. The team finished the season overall in first place, but the curse of the superlider struck and Chivas were bounced out in the first round of the playoffs by Queretaro by a 2-1 aggregate score.

In his career in the Mexican first division, Real has amassed a 31-62-30 record with three clubs. This does not include cup competitions (because the Copa Mexico/Copa MX did not exist at that time) and regional competitions.

Arguably Real's greatest accomplishment as a head coach was his team's performance in the 2010 Copa Libertadores. Entering the tournament in the knockout stages after qualifying in the previous year's Copa Lib group stage, Chivas were not allowed to progress in 2009 because of fears in South America due to the H1N1 flu, with Mexico being one of the global hotspots of the disease. However, the public health threat did not persist, and Chivas and fellow Mexican participant San Luis were entered in the knockout phase for the 2010 tournament.

As that period was the peak of Real's time in charge of Chivas, the timing could not have been better, as they defeated Argentine club Velez Sarsfield 3-2 on aggregate in the first knockout round, then moving on to beat Paraguayan side Libertad by the same margin in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Chivas met Universidad de Chile, and defeated them as well, making their way to the final.

In the 2010 Copa Libertadores final, Chivas faced Brazilian club Internacional. The Brazilians were favored, and won the series 5-3 to take the title. No Mexican club has yet won the tournament, and Chivas' run to the final made them just the second Mexican team to ever do it, following Cruz Azul in 2001, who lost the final on PKs to Argentine giant Boca Juniors.

In CONCACAF, Chivas never played in the local confederation's regional tournament while Real was coach, although they qualified for the 2012-13 tournament, by virtue of their first place finish in the 2011 Apertura, the term in which he was fired midseason.

Following his removal as first team coach, Real became the director of the youth system at Guadalajara, a post that expanded to include Chivas USA last year after Jorge Vergara took over full ownership of the MLS club. With his current head coaching responsibilities at Chivas USA, it is unclear if he is still actively in charge of youth development at both clubs, although of course he is officially considered an "interim coach" for the rest of the MLS season, presumably meaning he would return to his previous duties.

Real has a solid reputation as a coach in Mexico, though he is not considered to be one of the elite coaches in light of his lifetime record. Players widely respect and like playing for Real, although coming on the heels of the charisma machine that is Chelís, it is worth noting that Real is far more "conventional" in his coaching approach than the departed Goats manager.

The question ultimately comes down to this: can Real improve Chivas USA's fortunes in the 2013 season? He is accustomed to taking over teams in the middle of a season, so that won't be new, and he should likely have much more contact with the management and ownership of the club than his predecessor. As he is not renowned for a particular coaching style, I imagine he will be more willing to adjust his approach on the field tactically as needed.

But will he fire the team into a long-awaited playoff spot? Judging from his history and Chivas USA's current prospects, that seems quite unlikely. In his first two coaching stints, the team struggled essentially as much once he was appointed as they had previously. Plus, don't underestimate the difference between Liga MX and MLS, and the time it will take to adjust to the new league for the new manager.

And with Chivas, his teams were notable for going on runs, one of wins, but also a long stretch of draws and more than one streak of losses. If Chivas USA continue to lose, they will likely just keep on doing that. Of course, it will take Real time to insert his plan and tactics into the squad, but if Chivas continue losing through the first four or five league games with Güero in charge, the rest of the season will continue to be long and painful.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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