CARSON, Calif. – Major League Soccer boasts one derby – a rivalry between teams in the same city. Greater Los Angeles homes both the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA. Of the 24 total meetings, called the Honda SuperClasico, since 2005, Chivas USA has won four.
For a rivalry, there isn’t much rivaling going on. “Little is worse than hating and not being hated back in equal amount,” sports journalist Charles Boehm recently said on Twitter, though he was talking about the other kind of football.
This Clasico is more Honda than Super – steady and reliable but not something to get too amped up about among friends. (N.B.: I own a Civic.)
The next meeting is this Sunday. The two LA sides straddle the playoff line, in fifth and sixth in the Western Conference.
“We take a lot of pride in this rivalry, but I think more importantly, probably for both teams at this point, is this could end up being the last two teams that vie for a playoff spot,” Landon Donovan said. “That’s where our focus is.”
Omar Gonzalez, asked about the implications of this derby, quickly discussed its place as he would any other match after a defeat.
“We’re coming off a game where we lost 4-0 against Seattle, so this will be a good game for us to just get back in stride and get back to winning,” the 2011 Defender of the Year said.
Traditionally, the SuperClasico is an easy return to winning ways for the Galaxy. Chivas USA’s wins (four) plus draws (five) don’t match LA’s total wins (15). Donovan has appeared in 20 of the clashes, scoring nine goals and assisting another eight.
“I grew up here so I’m familiar with all the sports rivalries in this town, and I know that Angelinos take these things seriously,” Donovan said.
The comparison to other sports is apt. This rivalry feels like the one in LA basketball. The Clippers may begrudge the Lakers their trophies and glitz, but the Lakers have bigger concerns, like the Boston Celtics. Every time the Clippers run it close, the Lakers go and do something like trade for Dwight Howard.
Chivas USA can throw flailing punches at its big brother all it wants, but the Galaxy hardly notice as they eye vanguarding MLS into the national consciousness.
Thus far, the only SuperClasico trophy Chivas has won came in 2007. Galaxy holds the six others. Having split the first two meetings this year (Donovan naturally scoring twice in his side’s 3-1 win on July 21), the Goats could win a second trophy on Sunday.
The teams face each other three times. MLS decided on an unbalanced schedule partly because of an uneven number of teams (the Montreal Impact joined in 2012, becoming the 19th team in the league), but mostly because MLS has found traction advertising and hyping its rivalries. The Pacific Northwest in particular has led the way in ferocity and animosity. However, some alleged rivalries feel manufactured, such as the Trillium Cup, played between Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew. Thus far, the SuperClasico lacks the necessary heat.
“I know ideally for all of us, we’d like to play an even schedule, play everyone home and away,” Chivas USA’s All-Star goalkeeper Dan Kennedy said. “With that being said, it is what it is.”
Kennedy also mentioned the Clasico’s importance in the race for a playoff slot. Three games against the closest runner for that last position could decide which side of Carson makes it to the postseason. Currently, the Galaxy (33 points) have seven points on Chivas (26 points), but the Goats hold four games in hand.
“Those games in hand don’t mean anything unless we win,” Kennedy said, pointedly.
The opposite is true too, of course. Should Chivas win all four games in hand and take Sunday’s meeting, helping clinch a playoff berth ahead of the Galaxy, you can bet the Clasico would get super feisty in a hurry.
Joel Bollen contributed additional reporting to this article
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