Commentary: Is SuperClásico a real rivalry?
CARSON, Calif. – When talking about the SuperClásico, everyone says the right things. The LA Galaxy players tell you their matches against Chivas USA are rivalry games. They say they hate to lose to the guys they see in and around The Home Depot Center on a daily basis.
The Galaxy fans, too, talk about LA derby as a rivalry. They would like to see Chivas move as far away from The Home Depot Center as possible.
But where is this rivalry of which players and fans speak? For a rivalry to be a rivalry, don't both sides have to show up?
The 24th edition of the SuperClásico will take place on Sunday evening, when Chivas USA host the Galaxy (5 p.m. PT, ESPN2), and a quick glance at the previous 23 meetings shows just how one-sided the series has been.
Since the SuperClásico began in 2005, the Galaxy have built up an 11-3-6 record in regular-season meetings. Add the postseason and a US Open Cup match and the Galaxy's commanding series lead improves to 13-3-7.
Which means Chivas USA should be salivating each time they face LA. This is doubly true this weekend.
First, consider the way the Goats' 2009 season ended: a 3-2 aggregate loss to the Galaxy in the first round of the playoffs.
Second, Chivas need to win if they don’t want to suffer elimination from postseason contention at the hands of the Galaxy.
And third, a victory by the “hosts” Chivas would most likely spoil the Galaxy’s bid for both the Supporters' Shield and the Western Conference title.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: LA, Chivas meet in first SuperClásico of 2010
But Chivas USA have always had some reason or another to motivate themselves for the game. And it’s almost always ended the same way: The Galaxy win and proclaim their dominance while Chivas' players scratch their heads and wonder what went wrong.
Sadly, heading into Sunday's SuperClásico, the second this season, the chasm between the clubs is wider than ever. The Galaxy stand on 50 points, atop the West, where they have been all season. Chivas have just 25 points and dwell in the conference cellar.
In 2005, the Galaxy finished the season on 45 points while their expansion brethren had just 18, and though the Galaxy finished out of the playoffs the next three seasons, the widest gap between the teams was 19 points in 2007—the only season Chivas USA have claimed a season series victory over the Galaxy.
Worse, the Galaxy have gone three full years without losing to their so-called rivals. One key ingredient of derbies is the ability for both teams to score clutch wins over the other, and that has simply not happened here.
It's a shame, because Chivas-LA has the potential to be a great rivalry. The two clubs are among the few around the world—at least in prominent leagues—who share a stadium.
Flamengo-Fluminense in Brazil and AC Milan-Inter Milan in Italy are two other examples; over time, those clubs have birthed true derbies, underscored by important, dramatic victories by both sides.
That is the crux of the matter: Chivas USA need to put the Super in SuperClásico by winning a few more games and staking a claim to their presence at The Home Depot Center. Then, even the Galaxy players and fans will do more than just say the right things. They'll actually feel the right things, too.