After the 2008 season, the state of The Home Depot Center’s two MLS clubs was quite similar to it is now. One club sat near the top of the Western Conference while the other was near the bottom. What was the main difference between then and now? In 2008, it was Chivas USA that was near the top of the conference while only goal differential prevented LA from finishing dead last the West.
As the 2009 season began, the LA Galaxy began a major overall as head coach Bruce Arena began his first full season with the club after taking over for Ruud Gullit in late August. Arena immediately sought to build his club from the back by signing Donovan Ricketts, drafting defenders Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza while adding leadership throughout the field with the additions of the likes of Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant, Dema Kovalenko and Mike Magee.
Many expected this rebuilding process to take time, but at the end of the season, LA held the top record in the Western Conference and prepared to take on fourth place Chivas USA, who had finished just three points behind the Galaxy, in the first postseason edition of the SuperClásico. For Chivas, who had long lived in the shadow of the Galaxy, the series presented an important opportunity for their franchise.
The first match, which was hosted by the Rojiblancos, was a hectic one that saw both teams squander countless chances. It was Chivas who jumped out to an early lead when Maicon Santos put them ahead in the fourth minute. The lead would not stand, however, as 10 minutes later; Mike Magee capitalized on a defensive breakdown by Chivas’ Yamith Cuesta to level the match. In the 41st minute, Landon Donovan put the Galaxy up 2-1, but lead would not stand due to a Maykel Galindo goal in the 50th minute.
After the final whistle, tempers rose as David Beckham, playing in his first-ever MLS postseason contest, and Cuesta confronted one another—eventually needing to be separated by their respective coaching staffs –as the two teams headed into their respective locker rooms. The stage was set for the decisive second leg, to be hosted by the Galaxy.
A far cry from the frantic match just days earlier, the second leg was more chess match than track meet as both clubs searched for the decisive goal. In the end, it was a foul by Cuesta on Landon Donovan in the box that set up a penalty kick that the Galaxy forward calmly slotted past 2009 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Zach Thornton to seal LA’s win in the postseason SuperClásico.
After their defeat, chaos became common place with Chivas. After the club’s fourth consecutive playoff defeat, Chivas USA and head coach Preki parted “by mutual consent” with Chivas appointing Martin Vasquez as head coach months later—a job that he would hold for a single season.
The Galaxy fared much better following the win as they dispatched the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference Championship, before falling to Real Salt Lake in penalty kicks in the 2009 MLS Cup Final.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com