It’s impossible to travel in Los Angeles on a Sunday evening without seeing the beautiful game being played by people of walks of life, income levels, and ethnic backgrounds. In this sprawling metropolis, there are two teams that rule the soccer scene, David Beckham and Landon Donovan’s Los Angeles Galaxy and los rojiblancos of Chivas de Guadalajara. One team is conspicuously absent, the red and white of MLS club Chivas USA. Although the MLS Club has been around for five years, the team has been unable to make a big impact in the already crowded Los Angeles sports scene drawing an average of just over 15,ooo at Home Depot Center, a stadium with 27,000 capacity. They’ve also been unable to generate success on the field against their cross hallway rivals winning the season series against the Galaxy only once (2007) through their half decade existence. However, the club affectionately known as the Goats has its best chance yet to make an statement in their home town by drawing the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first round of the 2009 MLS Playoffs with the first game on November 1st on ESPN2 at 2pm PST.
“I think the Galaxy get a lot of credit since they were the original LA team and to play against them in a game of this magnitude, it’ll be a big event. It’s going to be a great opportunity for the brand of Chivas to be seen and if we do well and win then it will only help promote Chivas and Chivas USA as a whole,” said defender Jonathan Bornstein. “It’s always good to have respect from the local fans and the Galaxy have been around a lot longer and we’ve had to bad with that. I think that just in general a victory will help us be known.”
Chivas USA “earned” the right to play their cross hallway rivals after a disappointing performance 3-2 loss to the Dynamo in which Houston took a 3-0 lead before Chivas USA fired back with 2 quick goals by Michael Lahoud (his first goal for the club) and Eduardo Lillingston to bring the score back to respectability. The result meant Chivas USA would finish the season fourth in the Western Conference with 45 points to give them a date with the Western Conference top seeded Galaxy, the first ever playoff meetings between the two clubs. However, the Blue and White were a team that the Goats struggled mightily with this year, posting a 0-2-1 record in three games against LA while failing to score a single goal against their rivals.
Despite the failures of Chivas this year against Los Angeles, Head Coach Preki was defiant about his team’s chances. “The Galaxy had the better of us this year and they’ll be favorites but I think we’ll be ready to play,” said the former US national team star.
Although the team has failed to get through to the second round of the playoffs despite three straight playoff appearances, there is a sense of optimism in the locker room about this particular group of players. “I think we’re prepared, we showed that we can play at a high level for a stretch of the season, that’s all we need to do is to get hot at the right time and we have as good a chance as anyone to make a run to the title,” said Chivas’ standout Goal keeper Zach Thornton.
A win in El Clásico Angelino will not only help the team by putting them one win away from an MLS Cup berth but may also help make people in MacArthur Park, San Fernando, Pasadena and across the Southland more aware of the “other” team in Los Angeles. Perhaps it was Preki who put it best,”Hopefully we’ll see a full stadium and a good atmosphere with good football so at the end of the day I feel that everyone should be excited.”
Indeed with a win, the opportunities are endless for the Rebaño Angelino to finally make their claim to fame in the City of Angels.