Galaxy faithful, this is almost it – Sunday will give us one of our last chances to have a laugh at the expense of a few goats. Embarrassed by Guadalajara’s Jorge Vergera, Major League Soccer rescued Chivas USA from their burning (although mostly empty) farm and promised them a future in Los Angeles. Gone will be the days where we jokingly demand rent at an “away” match and no more will we have to look at tarps covering the seats fans usually fill. Next year’s Team-Formerly-Known-as-Goats will be a completely different machine with new owners, a new name, and a new place to play. For the first time in years the Los Angeles Galaxy will possibly have a true crosstown rival. However, this isn’t an obituary for Chivas USA – the Goats are still alive and bleating and the Galaxy must face them on Sunday.
LAST CHANCE FOR CHIVAS The SuperClasico (yeah, I hate the name too) has long been touted by MLS as one of the fiercest rivalries in the league. Statistically, fierce isn’t a very accurate description of the Galaxy’s success over Chivas USA. Winning 18 of 28 meetings while losing only 4 matches, the Galaxy have experienced close to a decade of dominance over their stadium tenants. The true rivalry between these two teams exists in the stands where fans of each club posses a bitter dislike for the other side. Yet even this rivalry has diminished over the years. While Chivas USA fans spend money on anti-Galaxy scarves, fans of the Galaxy almost forget their neighbors exist until game day – yet, this pride still creates a tension that manifests itself on the field once play starts. This season has potential to return the rivalry of the SuperClasico to its fabled heights. With an early meeting in the season, Chivas USA looks to change its reputation before a massive rebrand. This is the Goats’ last chance to win a series against the Galaxy in their current incarnation – a feat they have only accomplished once, in 2007.
ANYONE’S GAME Since this game comes at an early point in the season it has the potential to be the most unpredictable meeting between the Galaxy and Chivas USA. Currently, Chivas USA has a record of 1-1-2 (W-L-T) after four matches while the Galaxy sits at 0-1-1 after two matches. While Chivas USA are on a three match winless streak it is important to note that each loss or tie has been a result of giving up late game-changing goals to their opponents. Putting the ball in the back of the net has not been a problem for Chivas USA as they have done it six times this season. Yet they can’t seem to keep the ball out of their net as they have given up seven goals against opposition. Meanwhile the Galaxy are having an identity crisis. While not looking completely horrible, LA has not been able to assert itself offensively or defensively on the field. Missed chances and bizarre lapses in defense are making the Galaxy one of the most unpredictable teams in MLS at the moment. This brings us two possible and equally unpredictable outcomes: if Chivas USA plays like they have been the Galaxy may be able to find their rhythm yet, if the Galaxy continues its lackluster tendencies, Chivas USA can easily walk away with this game with a proven ability to score.
AN UNBALANCE IN THE GALAXY Just two games into the regular season, the Galaxy have experienced drama comparable to what is usually found with a club that is more than halfway through its season. First, the Galaxy lost recently signed defender James Riley for at least six months to a torn meniscus. Next, A.J. DeLaGarza has been forced to the sidelines with an ankle injury and has not yet returned to regular training. Just to stress fans out more, Jaime Penedo missed the Galaxy’s last game due to an issue with his work visa. The club has also had issues with two of its most important players. While not playing completely horribly, Landon Donovan has managed to simply blend in to the run of play and has become close to invisible on the field. Donovan’s set pieces have been off and, to top things off, he was left off the starting XI for the United States this week against Mexico. According USMNT Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, tendonitis in the knee is to blame for Donovan’s performance. Let’s hope that really is the problem and it will be solved soon. Finally, Omar Gonzalez has been mediocre at best. Many lapses in the Galaxy’s defense can be traced to a Gonzalez who has seemed distracted on the field. Adding to worries, Gonzalez failed to impress both critics and fans and even seemed to be a liability in his start against Mexico for the United States. On a positive note, Robbie Keane has been his usual dependable self on offense and moments of impressive play from Samuel, Friend, and Ishizaki have hinted that the Galaxy may be a sleeping giant in MLS.
CHIVAS USA PLAYERS TO WATCH
Erick Torres – Leading scorer for Chivas USA who has managed to put the ball in the net in each of the club’s four games.
Carlos Bocanegra – Veteran USMNT defender who provides experience to the backline of Chivas.
Mauro Rosales – Former Sounder and veteran midfielder. Leads Chivas USA in assists.
THE BOTTOM LINE While it isn’t as massive as marketed, let’s not forget that this still is a rivalry – things can get heated and dynamics of the match can change quickly as a result. Parts of the Galaxy’s starting lineup are in shambles and the team must find some sort of consistency in order to beat a Chivas USA that isn’t exactly deadly but has shown some capability to get results. If the Galaxy finds any sort of rhythm, they are favorites to win this game. Chivas hopes that the Galaxy will be as inconsistent as they have been in their first few games – let’s hope the Galaxy reminds them who owns Los Angeles soccer after all these years.