CARSON, Calif. – The rivalry between the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA is only six years and about to be 21 regular-season games old, but don’t think it’s lacking in passion despite its infancy.
From a player’s point of view, these remain the most intense games of the year. Bragging rights are at stake, and the fact both teams use the same stadium and are playing well only adds to the emotions of Saturday’s SuperClasico.
“It’s great for the sport when teams are playing well and they come up against each other,” the Galaxy’s David Beckham said about Chivas USA as the teams prepared for this season’s first leg of the series at The Home Depot Center (7 p.m., ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, espn3.com). “If you want to be successful, you have to match yourself against the teams that are playing well.
“And both teams are playing well.”
The Galaxy are 5-2-5 and are coming off a resounding 4-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City. Chivas USA, under first-year coach Robin Fraser, are 3-3-3 and just knocked off the Red Bulls 3-2 last weekend in New York.
“They’ve gotten a few good results and are playing good soccer,” Beckham said. “Obviously there’s going to be a lot of passion in the game.”
Beckham is no stranger to such theater, having been part of some of the biggest rivalries and local derbies in the world.
“They’re great games to play in,” he said. “For Man United players, coming up against Man City was something we looked forward to, mostly because we beat them every time. Especially when you’re playing for Real Madrid and you’re coming up against Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter (Milan).
“When you play against your rivals, it means a lot. They’re passionate and there’s a lot of heat. It’s definitely going to be a good game.”
Juan Pablo Angel, who came over to the Galaxy during the offseason, will be playing in his first SuperClasico, but he has plenty of experience with derbies as well. He was a member of Buenos Aires’ River Plate from 1998-2001 and said the games with Boca Juniors were unlike anything he’s ever witnessed.
“There’s nothing like it in the world,” he said. “I’ve seen the majority of the biggest derbies in the world, but there’s nothing like Boca-River. The pressure, the atmosphere, what it means to the city … it’s hard to explain.
“It’s always special to play in the Clasicos. It should be a great game and hopefully a good atmosphere.”
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena doesn’t think the games with Chivas USA are more special than any other – “I think every game is kind of the same for the coaches, to be honest with you,” he said – but he did admit it’s a little more special than usual because both teams share the same facilities and see each other often.
“That makes it a little more intense,” he said.
The Galaxy’s Landon Donovan said games like Saturday’s are as eagerly anticipated as the first meeting between the teams, a 3-1 Galaxy victory on April 23, 2005. The Galaxy hold a decided 12-3-5 edge in the series and are 5-0-3 in the last eight meetings. Chivas USA have not won since a pair of 3-0 victories in the 2007 season and were also knocked out of the playoffs by the Galaxy in 2009.
“They’re more fun for us,” Donovan said of the rivalry. “They feel a little more involved, a little more meaningful. At the end of the day it’s one game and three points, but the way they’re playing right now especially adds some emphasis to this game at this moment.”