The first edition of the 2012 superclasico is almost here! The battle of LA will pit Chivas USA against the LA Galaxy Saturday evening (7:30 pm PDT, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes). Both teams are entering the match coming off a 1-1 draw, Chivas to the San Jose Earthquakes and the Galaxy to the Montreal Impact, both on the road. Their form is nearly identical, they are next to each other in the standings, and it's not the preferred end of the table. They've also both been poor at home, collectively drawing seven points out of a possible 33 in league play at the Home Depot Center so far this season. Now, since they are playing each other at the HDC (Chivas are the home team this time officially, for what that's worth), two or three points are guaranteed on the night between the two clubs. But both sides will see this match as an opportunity to beat their rival, but also to jumpstart their season.
If you missed it, take a look at the Three Questions Exchange with Josie Becker of LAG Confidential from yesterday (to be fair, it was busy yesterday in Chivatown, so you may have missed it). Thanks again to Josie for her time in answering our questions!
On to the preview:Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 10 points (3-6-1), 8th place in Western Conference, 16th place overall; Goal Difference: -6 (6/12); Last five matches: W-L-L-L-T
LA Galaxy: 11 points (3-5-2), 7th place in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal Difference: -3 (12/15); Last five matches: W-T-L-L-T
Key Matchup: Chivas attack vs. Galaxy attack
I could flip the script and focus on the respective defenses, but let's be real: while both defenses have struggled at times this season, the attacks are far more important for these sides ultimately getting a result. If one team can score and the other sputters in the attack, that will make the difference. There's a fair chance the defenses could be weak, but the goals need to be scored to make the defenses accountable. Both sides have failed to score at a consistent clip so far in 2012.
For Chivas, the scoring woes are far more significant than for the Galaxy. They've scored a single goal at the HDC this season, and that's simply not good enough. But the fact that Juan Pablo Angel got his first for the season (assuming he's available against the Galaxy) in their last home match, on a penalty no less, and that Jose Correa opened his MLS account last week on a terrific goal should give Chivas some reason for optimism. Oh yeah, and Juan Agudelo is now a member of the team. I don't want to heap too much pressure on Agudelo, particularly 48 hours after being traded to the team, but he's a young and exciting forward, and his arrival gives Chivas considerable optimism. I'm not entirely sure Agudelo will feature in this match, but I'm guessing he'll at least get some time as a sub.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy have scored twice as many goals as Chivas this season, but their big stars have not clicked in 2012. Robbie Keane has three goals, leading the team, but he hasn't looked particularly sharp in his finishing. David Beckham has a pair of goals, as does Landon Donovan, but they also haven't played at their 2011 level. And Edson Buddle departed the Galaxy at the top of his game to go to Germany a couple years back, and returned a far less effective player. Both sides have players who can be dangerous, but it is unclear if they are going to perform in this match.
Why Chivas will win this match: Yeah, it's been a long long time since Chivas beat the Galaxy. History is not on their side. But you know what might be? Momentum. Sure, Chivas have struggled this season, but they bottomed out a couple years ago and are trying to work their way up. The trades this week for Danny Califf and Juan Agudelo are also helping to build buzz around the team. Sure, they aren't at a place in the standings that they would like to be, but there have been considerable reasons for excitement and promising players emerging. And what about the Galaxy? Sure, they were very successful in 2011, but it is now 2012, and they aren't playing at all the same way. Most of the core is still intact this season, and it's not working. There seems to be fingerpointing within the team as well as among the fans. For Chivas? Yeah, disappointment at the results, but most are still optimistic about the team.
It feels like it's time. Time for a win at home, and time for a win over the Galaxy.
Why the Galaxy will win this match: People are waiting for the other shoe to drop and for this team to get in gear. Could this be the match? They may only be a point ahead in the standings but they still seem to have the more complete team than Chivas. They have the experience, and let's face it, they have the historic results on their side in this rivalry. Chivas have to overcome that history and opinions about their ability to compete against the Galaxy, while the Galaxy need to regain their swagger. In the past, beating Chivas was basically a formality, but this time beating Chivas could help them start their season anew.
Why this match will end in a draw: Two sputtering teams, struggling at their shared stadium, in a derby match. Smells like a draw to me. A draw would be both a good result and a major disappointment for both clubs. Obviously, a point is better than no points, and allows them to stay close to each other in the standings for another week. But each club desperately needs wins if they have any hope for getting into a playoff chase, and failing to beat their local rival is going to be hard to take, for both the players and fans. If red cards come into play, and tempers flare, we're not going to see a beautiful brand of soccer and it will get (especially) ugly. Anything could happen, but a draw is a distinct possibility.
Chivas: Ben Zemanski (knee, listed as questionable)
Galaxy: Andrew Boyens (sports hernia), Omar Gonzalez (knee), Edson Buddle (adductor - listed as questionable), Robbie Keane (hamstring - listed as questionable), Leonardo (knee - listed as questionable), David Junior Lopes (hamstring - listed as questionable)