LA Galaxy newcomers look ahead to first SuperClasico

Friend, Husidic and Ishizaki recount their own experiences in local rivalry matches

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Rob Friend is new to Major League Soccer, but he isn’t new to the SuperClasico between the Galaxy and Chivas USA, which resumes on Sunday at StubHub Center (noon, Time Warner Cable SportsNet, UniMas).

It was three years ago that Friend was in the stands watching the teams play, thanks to tickets from former UC Santa Barbara teammate and current Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

Friend said he enjoyed the game – “I’m pretty sure the Galaxy won,” he said – and described it as “fun to watch.”

Sunday, however, he gets to play in it. Friend called it a critical game, but not for the reasons one might think.

“It’s an important game. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Friend said after training. “It’s important to get on a winning track.

“Just focus on us and not about who we’re playing against.”

Friend admitted he hasn’t heard much about the annual series that started in 2005 and has been dominated by the Galaxy, which is 11-1-4 in the last 16 meetings between the clubs. But he is interested to see the level of passion displayed by the fans.

Friend is no stranger to some of the sport’s biggest derbies. The Canadian international played in Germany for most of his career and counts games between one of his former clubs, Borussia Moenchengladbach, and FC Koln as matches that weren’t for the faint of heart.

“There were 50, 60,000 fans fighting each other,” he said. “That whole region there are big games.”

Midfielder Baggio Husidic, formerly of Sweden’s Hammarby IF and about to play in his first Clasico, got his first taste of the Galaxy-Chivas USA rivalry by watching highlights while he was a member of the Chicago Fire.

Husidic still can’t help but think of some of the Stockholm showdowns he’s been a part of.

“It’s a different kind of belief,” he said. “It’s been around for so long; people are born into it, generations of kids are born into it. Nothing to take away from the fans here because it’s such a young league, but I’m sure it will develop into something in the future.

“But seeing old men cry and little boys cry is crazy, from happiness and sadness. It makes you appreciate how much they love their club.”

Stefan Ishizaki, who joined the Galaxy during the offseason from Sweden’s IF Elsborg, remembers great derbies with Hammarby and IFK Goteborg at that city’s old, national stadium.

But now he’s about to take part in his first SuperClasico at StubHub. It certainly marks quite a change, but a game that has understandably has piqued his curiosity.

“I don’t really know that much about the rivalry,” he said. “Just two L.A. clubs. But it has to be something special, right? I’m really looking forward to the game.”