CARSON, Calif. – Two stellar first-half goals. Questionable officiating. A comeback attempt that fell short.
While the Los Angeles Galaxy’s games against Chivas USA play out differently, more often than not, the result is the same.
With a few more memorable moments to throw into the SuperClásico highlight reel, the Galaxy turned aside Chivas USA yet again, this time with a 2-1 win over their in-stadium rivals on Sunday. The Galaxy improved to 12-3-5 all-time in regular-season meetings over Chivas USA with their latest win in a series that has been one-sided since Day One.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Aside from Galaxy victories, what’s also a given has been Chivas USA’s tenacity on the field.
“These games are always fiercely competitive and [Sunday] was no different,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “I give Chivas a lot of credit, they played real hard.”
Playing the Galaxy hard has never been a problem for Chivas USA, who have typically shown up for each and every one of the encounters. But the Galaxy always seem to reach deep down and put out a stronger performance against their rivals.
After Real Salt Lake’s win over New England Saturday, putting forth a strong effort was even more important for LA on Sunday.
“We’re moving forward, starting to get some of our players back, but that’s obviously part of the plan in the last month of the season,” Arena said. “We’re 27 weeks in and it hasn’t been perfect, but we’ve been in first place for 27 weeks. It’s not going to be easy the next three games.”
This year’s final meeting was in stark contrast to the last SuperClásico in 2009, when the Galaxy beat Chivas USA 1-0 to eliminate their rivals from the MLS Cup playoffs. With nothing to play for this time around, the Galaxy got a tough battle from their in-stadium rivals.
“Obviously, they’ve had a bad year and this has been a good year for us,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “It’s always difficult to play them, but I think we showed that we still wanted it just as badly and [Sunday] was a really good win for us."
After some early-game theatrics – each team hit the woodwork in the first 10 minutes – the Galaxy opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. Michael Stephens lifted a ball over Chivas USA’s defense and found Buddle, who ripped a shot past Zach Thornton from outside the box. [WATCH: Buddle's goal]
“Just a fantastic finish,” Donovan said. “A great ball from Mikey and an absolutely world-class finish. That’s a goal anywhere.”
Chivas USA’s Carlos Borja gave away a free kick towards the end of the first half some 22 yards out. Beckham, who according to Arena had been sick throughout the week, picked out the right corner and placed it perfectly there.
“When you see the wall, there are a number of players in the wall and I think the goalkeeper is definitely not able to see the ball from there,” Arena said. “We said in the bench if he hits it to the ‘keeper’s left it’s a goal, and it was. It’s a great free kick.” [WATCH: Beckham's goal]
Beckham played 64 minutes in the match, down from his 90-minute effort against New York. His game was his fourth match for the Galaxy this year, while his goal was his first for the club since September 2009.
“I practice my free kicks week in and week out and when they go in you are rewarded for that practice,” Beckham said. “[Sunday] was a good night for myself, but it was more important for us to pick up those three points.”
In the second half, two officiating plays drew Arena’s ire. Alan Gordon scored a goal on his former club but Arena said – and replays confirmed – he was offside when he did so, and Eddie Lewis was sent off for stomping on Goats midfielder Rodolfo Espinoza’s chest. [WATCH: Lewis' red card]
“Chivas did a real good job in getting very direct in their attack and playing some dangerous balls in the box and, when the linesman can’t call offside, they’re even more dangerous,” Arena said about Gordon’s goal.
As for Lewis’ red card, Arena said, “I think a player that’s jumping out of the way of a dangerous tackle, standing out of bounds, it can’t be his responsibility to get out of the way of the player that’s fouling him. That’s a questionable card for sure.”
Still, none of that took away from the importance of the victory.
“It’s a great win for our team,” Arena said. “We had to overcome some questionable officiating and hang in there and play hard. No question about that, and we got the three points.”