In the Beginning
On April 23, 2005, the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA engaged in the first-ever Honda SuperClasico and changed the definition of the word “rivalry” in MLS circles forever. No longer was it limited to heated contests involving clubs from different cities, different states, and sometimes even different time zones. The Galaxy and Chivas USA were not only in the same town, but they shared the Home Depot Center.
MLS allegiances in Southern California were forever fractured.
“Latins vs. Gringos”
Chivas USA joined the league in 2005 proudly flying the Mexican and Hispanic banner. The roster was stocked with Mexicans, including legend Ramón Ramírez, and Central Americans like Costa Rican Douglas Sequeira. A few months before the club debuted, owner Jorge Vergara set the stage for the LA derby, using his typically charged language.
“It’s the Latins versus the Gringos,” he famously told The LA Times Magazine. “And we're going to win."
The brash rhetoric coming from the Red-and-White side, as well as the sudden cohabitation at the HDC, got under the skin of some of the Galaxy players. Defender Chris Albright, now with the New York Red Bulls, viewed Chivas’ arrival as something of an encroachment upon the Galaxy’s territory.
“Chivas kind of had this foreign presence to them and you kind of wanted to let them know whose building it was,” he recalls recently to MLSsoccer.com. “There was a sense of pride that this was the home that the Galaxy built and these guys were just renters and we were going to show them that we were the better team.”
Set It Off
It was with this tinge of tension in the air that the two sides met for the first time, on April 23, 2005, under a clear California night.
“The anticipation heading into that first game was pretty special,” then-Chivas USA coach Thomas Rongen says. “There was a lot of attention, and it started the rivalry off with such great intensity.”
While LA had always enjoyed healthy home crowds Center, the presence of a red-and-white-striped corner full of educated away support—the Galaxy were technically the “home” team—brought things to a rapid boil.
To call the atmosphere on that April night “electric” would be an understatement of the highest order as the stands and the grassy berm at the HDC were transformed into a chanting, heaving mass of passion.
On the field, the fans’ passion was matched by the players.
“I always did my pregame talks in Spanish and English,” Rongen, now the U.S. U-20 coach, recalls. “That night, I played into the emotional side, talking up the importance of the game. But it was an easy pregame talk, because the Mexicans on the team understood it. They wear their emotions on their sleeve.”
From the opening minute, the game was a full-throttle affair, with the Galaxy laying on the gas early. In the 14th minute, Albright’s deflected shot from inside the six-yard box landed at the feet of Cobi Jones, who buried the ball for the opening goal.
Quickly, very quickly, tempers flared, as the newborn rivalry breathed life into itself. Both sides went into challenges like hoplites charging into the fray.
But this was no fair fight. The Galaxy were simply too good, too established, and they controlled the play for the remainder of the match.
In the 24th minute, LA captain Peter Vagenas received a sublimely headed pass from Landon Donovan, and ran through a trio of defenders for the second goal of the game.
The final blow came moments later when Jovan Kirovski smashed a freekick over the wall and past a flat-footed Brad Guzan. LA had scored three goals in less than 30 minutes, and the Galaxy faithful were justifiably puffing out their chests. An early second-half free kick from Ramírez gave Chivas USA a consolation goal, but it was only that, consolation.
“Maybe we were overprepared,” Rongen says. “We were so emotionally charged, we got away from the game responsibilities. Our emotions got the better of us.”
For the fans, that emotion was what the evening was all about. They had seen both great soccer and a great display of competitive spirit and in return they put on their own display, one of unrivaled passion.
“No one in MLS knows what a rivalry is until they play in that game,” says former Galaxy striker Herculez Gomez, now with Mexican club Puebla. “It’s unlike any other game I have experienced in MLS.”
Rongen agrees. “By far, it’s the best rivalry in MLS.”