CARSON, Calif. – They’re calling Sunday’s SuperClasico between the LAGalaxy and Chivas USA at StubHub Center (noon, Time Warner Cable SportsNet, UniMas) a rivalry, although it hasn’t been much of one lately.
But that could be about to change.
Chivas USA haven’t offered much resistance to their in-house opponent lately and haven’t won this matchup since a 1-0 decision on May 19, 2012, but the Rojiblancos appear to be vastly improved from a year ago, when they finished with a dismal 6-20-8 record.
The club has undergone an extensive overhaul, from ownership to coaching – former Colorado Rapids assistant Wilmer Cabrera is in charge now – and the results have been telling.
“They’re a better team, no question about it,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “They’ll fight real hard for 90 minutes. Their opening month of the season has been good.”
Chivas USA (1-1-2) has been led by the likes of Mauro Rosales and Erick “Cubo” Torres, who is tied with Colorado’s Vicente Sanchez for the league lead with four goals.
The Rojiblancos back line is anchored by veteran goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who is second in games played with the franchise (113) behind only Jonathan Bornstein and Francisco Mendoza at 123.
“The fact they’re better this year isn’t a surprise,” Galaxy (0-1-1) defender Todd Dunivant said. “We know they were going to be. Getting Rosales on their team helped a lot, and Torres up front. They have more dangerous weapons now.
“Wilmer knows this league and how to win. We’re going to have to earn it if we want to win.”
The Galaxy’s Robbie Keane hopes Chivas’ improvement will have a positive effect on Sunday’s crowd. Chivas averaged just 8,366 fans last season, a league low by more than 4,000. San Jose was next-lowest at 12,765, but that mark is deceiving since the Earthquakes are playing at 10,000-seat Buck Shaw Stadium until their new facility is built.
Once the crowds start getting bigger, Keane said, then this rivalry will take off.
“It’s special if you have 28,000 people there,” he said. “If there’s seven or eight thousand, it’s a little bit different. To create a rivalry, it can’t be just about the game but it’s about the whole build-up, the whole atmosphere. The atmosphere comes from people coming out and watching the game.
“If it was an LA Galaxy home game” – the Galaxy are the designated away team on Sunday – “you could guarantee a lot of fans here. I certainly hope there’s going to be a lot of Chivas fans there supporting the team. This is a good rivalry, and if we want to compete at the highest level we need the Chivas fans here to support the team.
“I’m hoping there will be a big crowd; I absolutely love it,” Keane continued. “Like last year in Seattle when there’s 60,000 people there and it builds, it’s great. It creates an atmosphere. That’s what we play the game for, we play for people to come and enjoy and watch. If you don’t enjoy it don’t come. It’s fairly simple.
“It helps the players, it helps them perform even better. It’s all part of what we do.”