As part of Major League Soccer's "Rivalry Week," Chivas USA will face the LA Galaxy in a "road" match this weekend at the HDC. The league purposely stacked the rivalry games in the same weekend, and early in the season, and there will be enhanced coverage of some of the Saturday matches, with MLS Sports Network pioneering a new "Red Zone"-style program during the busiest part of the day.
For Chivas USA, the game is a serious proposition, as it always is against the Galaxy. Despite the rivalry and the fact that it remains the only one in MLS between two clubs in the same city, the overall record is so lopsided that the Galaxy and its fans have been able to downplay the rivalry for years. Since 2007, Chivas have only beaten the Galaxy once. On the bright side, that win came last year, in the first SuperClasico of the season, but it was followed up with two drubbings at the hands of the Galaxy, including a 4-0 capper on the season series that ultimately put Chivas' tenuous playoff hopes to bed.
That largely-unsuccessful history in the LA rivalry, coupled with Chivas' very different form in the first two matches of the season, means Chivas USA are going to have to play their best on Sunday if they want to get another result on their rival.
Against Columbus, Chivas played poorly, but they seemed to improve sufficiently in the second match. That's obviously a positive sign heading into the Galaxy game, and if Chivas coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola can further refine the team's play this week, it could really pay dividends (although to be fair, he went to Mexico to see his family earlier this week, then continued his side gig commentating on Copa LIbertadores matches for Fox Sports Español on Wednesday. Still, if the team looks good Sunday, his other activities won't matter a whit).
But the Galaxy will be by far the toughest test for the Goats so far this season. No offense to the Columbus Crew or FC Dallas, but they just don't look to be in the same tier as the Galaxy so far this season. Although they have only played one league match, they crushed Chicago Fire 4-0 in the opening weekend (although to be fair, Chicago looks terrible so far), and had a bye last weekend because of CONCACAF Champions League play. In fact, by Sunday the Galaxy will have played more competitive matches this month than Chivas, as they played a home-and-away series in the CCL against Costa Rican side Herediano that concluded last night, and the Galaxy won the series to advance to the CCL semifinals. Will the starters from the CCL games be rested? Probably not the majority of them, since they will have a fair amount of time to rest before the game at the weekend.
One theoretical factor in Chivas' favor is that Landon Donovan has not returned from his personal leave for the Galaxy yet, and will definitely not feature in Sunday's match. On paper, that sounds great for the Goats. However, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena has done a good job integrating younger and more peripheral players into the squad slowly over the last year, and the entire roster appears to be hungry not to get off to the terrible start in MLS they had in 2012, and to remain in the lineup. Thus, Donovan's absence may only make a difference if the game is deadlocked and Donovan can't push his team over the edge. At this point, that doesn't look likely, frankly.
As in most of Chivas' games against the Galaxy, the initial goal has to be to keep the scoreline low and close if they hope to get any points. Obviously, if Chivas grabs three goals again, great! But they need to make sure the Galaxy doesn't grab five goals.
At the moment, this game will be tough to call, mostly because Chivas is such a work in progress. On paper, the Galaxy will be heavy favorites, but Chivas' tenacity so far this season could really help them get a grip on the match. It won't be easy, but in these rivalry games, it never is for the Goats. Still, if the strong version of the team that played the final half hour against Dallas returns, they could make a go of the first SuperClasico.
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