CARSON, Calif. – The SuperClasico between the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA had the makings to be one of MLS’ great rivalries.
Both teams share the same stadium and pass each other on a daily basis in the halls of StubHub Center. However, the series between city rivals has been anything but competitive with the LA Galaxy holding a 19-4-7 record in all competitions.
LA Galaxy mainstays Landon Donovan and Todd Dunivant have extensive experience playing against Chivas USA and ahead of 2014’s first SuperClasico, the pair reflected on some of the most memorable matches.
BOB BRADLEY RESURRECTS CHIVAS USA
The LA Galaxy dominated the first few SuperClasicos, but once Bob Bradley took over as head coach of Chivas USA ahead of the 2006 season their luck turned around.
The Chivas USA head coach revamped the team with a veteran core that included Jesse Marsch, Paco Palencia, Ante Razov, and Claudio Suarez as well as a youthful contingent of Sacha Kljestan, goalkeeper Brad Guzan, and 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year Jonathan Bornstein. Under Bradley, the Rojiblancos reached the postseason falling to the eventual champion Houston Dynamo as Bradley won the 2006 MLS Coach of the Year. Bradley’s charges helped Chivas win their first match against the Galaxy with a 2-1 victory but LA still won the series with a 2-1-1 record.
Bradley eventually departed to join the U.S. National Team coaching staff and would ultimately succeed current LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena as the manager of the USMNT but he left Chivas in good stead for his successor Preki who led the Rojiblancos to four straight playoff appearances and the team’s only SuperClasico series victory in 2007.
DUNIVANT: “With Ante Razov and Sacha [Kljestan], those guys had a great team. They won the [regular season] western conference when [Preki] was their coach. But Bob Bradley helped them change directions real quickly after a really bad [opening] year for them. They turned things around quickly and even won the series [in 2007]. That was pinnacle of the rivalry.”
DONOVAN: “The year Bob was here was the most enjoyable. That’s before Sacha left [for Europe] and Jonny [Bornstein] was in his prime. Those games were legitimately difficult, but since then and before that time it’s been a bit lopsided.”
THE PLAYOFF SUPERCLASICO
Every great rivalry has a turning point and for the SuperClasico that happened in 2009 when the two teams met in the Western Conference Semifinals.
The LA Galaxy were returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2005 while Chivas USA had qualified for the postseason for the fourth consecutive season. Chivas hosted the first leg as the two teams played to a high-octane 2-2 draw with Donovan and Mike Magee trading goals with Chivas forwards Maicon Santos and Maykel Galindo. The second leg was a cagey affair with Donovan breaking the deadlock with a penalty kick goal in the 73rd minute that allowed LA to win the series and set the team on course to reach the 2009 MLS Cup.
Since the series, the Galaxy have enjoyed a 68-35-29 regular season record with two MLS Cup victories and two Supporters’ Shield trophies while Chivas USA have gone on a downward spiral with a 29-70-33 record since their last playoff appearance.
DUNIVANT: “Those were the first meaningful games that we played against them. It was a rare time in history that both teams have been competing for the Western Conference. That’s how real important rivalries are born by playing meaningful games against teams and that’s what those were.”
DONOVAN: “The playoff series was the best. I think of it [in terms of] the historical context because that may not happen again. In some ways, we’re trying to create a rivalry in our sport in this country and in other sports, people look back and remember the past like ‘when the [Green Bay Packers] beat the [Minnesota Vikings] when there were only 12 teams’ That kind of stuff is important because we want to be ahead of that.”
DOMINATION: GALAXY 5, CHIVAS USA 0
No match is more emblematic of the LA Galaxy’s SuperClasico dominance of late than their final meeting of 2013.
The Galaxy’s 2013 campaign was a topsy-turvy one that ended in disappointment, but they bossed their cross-hall rivals in big way on Oct. 6, when they smashed Chivas USA 5-0 in the final SuperClasico of the year. The Rojiblancos were mired in yet another last place season, but had high hopes heading into the SuperClasico, which ended in a five goal thumping against the Galaxy. The match also saw Landon Donovan tie Jeff Cunningham’s MLS all-time regular season goals coring record of 134 with a hat trick against Chivas.
Although Sunday’s match may not have a similar score line that 5-0 victory illustrated the Galaxy’s current superiority over their cross-hall rivals.
DUNIVANT: “Gyasi [Zardes] was amazing in that game. It was his breakout performance. It’s tough when they have to switch identities so often, but that’s what happens when you change players and change coaches so frequently. You get results like that.”
DONOVAN: “That was a good day and I remember it well. They’re clearly a different team now, which is something that you set about them last year, but you could tell that they were clearly fading and we capitalized. This looks like a different team now [in 2014] with a number of very good players.”