CARSON, Calif. — Chivas USA brings something very new to Sunday's SuperClasico (8pm PT, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), and it could be a game-changer. That's how the LA Galaxy sees the addition of midfielder Shalrie Joseph to their archrival's lineup.
“It changes [the Clasico] a lot,” LA captain Landon Donovan asserted at Friday's pregame news conference at The Home Depot Center. “He, in my opinion, has been one of the best probably 10 or 15 players in this league for a long time now, and we fully expect him to play. How they use him, we're not quite sure, and maybe they're still finding out, too.
“But he's an influential player and a good leader ... I think he's going to have an influence on their team in a very positive way.”
His teammates agree, tipping their hats to the Rojiblancos for pulling off last week's trade with New England to acquire the 34-year-old midfielder, a four-time MLS Best XI selection.
“That's a big move getting Shalrie,” said defender Todd Dunivant. “He has been one of the best defensive mids, if not the best, in the history of the league.”
Head coach Bruce Arena acknowledged Joseph, had he not pledged his international career to his native Grenada, would have been in his plans during his tenure as US national team. Many believe Joseph, who moved to New York when he was 12, would have started in three World Cups, including the 2002 and 2006 events under Arena.
But now Arena has to deal with him in the jersey of his club’s biggest rivals.
“Shalrie's a good player,” Arena said. “I would think in time he's going to be able to reshape their midfield.”
THE BIGGEST GAME: This final SuperClasico of the season is by far the most meaningful. The teams straddle the playoff line in the Western Conference table, with the Galaxy seven points ahead but having played four more games. The result could go a long way to determining the clubs' playoff fortunes.
“It's a huge game for both teams ... a massive game,” Dunivant said. “If we win, it puts some distance between us. If they win, suddenly they're right on our heels. There's not a lot of opportunity left [as the schedule] gets shorter and shorter.”
The playoff race only amplifies what already is a heated matchup. No regular-season game, Donovan says, is as big as this one.
“There's probably a little more emotion involved, a little more passion ... a little more meaning,” he said. “In this league there are a lot of games, a lot of games in the summer months, where from time to time you get to the end of a game you think, 'God, I wasn't fully into that game,' because it's been a long summer and this, that or the other.
“But in this game, you know that everybody on both sides are going to come prepared and really fully alert and ready for it, and that's where the difference is.”