The superclasico is here! Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy face off Sunday in the LA derby match (6 pm PST, ESPN/ESPN Deportes). Who will get bragging rights? Can Chivas even the results this season and make it an even split? The last match between the clubs came May 21, when the Galaxy won 1-0. You can check out this article from earlier this week detailing the last draw and win in the series for Chivas, but needless to say, it's been a long time since Chivas beat the Galaxy. Can they break their winless streak Sunday? Let's get you ready for the match.
If you missed it, check out the three questions exchange with LAG Confidential from yesterday.
Tale of the Tape:
Chivas USA: 36 points (8-12-12); 7th place in Western Conference, 14th place overall; Goal difference: 1 (40/39); Last 5 games: L-L-T-W-TGalaxy: 64 points (18-4-10); 1st place in Western Conference, 1st place overall; Goal difference: 21 (46/25); Last 5 games: W-W-W-W-L
Key Matchup: Juan Pablo Angel vs. the Galaxy/his personal demons
The dominant storyline entering the match is JPA. He's in a very unique position. Chivas and the Galaxy have swapped many players over the years, but never has a player with as high a profile been swapped in the middle of the season between the clubs. Angel came to the Galaxy in the offseason after several successful seasons with the New York Red Bulls. He was signed as a designated player and given the task of helping the Galaxy win the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup. While the Galaxy are in the position they wanted to be in, winning the Supporters Shield and being the favorite in the playoffs, Angel's tenure with the Galaxy was awful. He scored only 3 goals in 22 appearances, despite being by far the most talented forward on the squad, and there were way too many matches where he looked completely out of place and unhelpful to the cause. By the time he was traded to Chivas at the transfer deadline for the Galaxy to make room for Robbie Keane, his stock was at its lowest in his MLS career. Chivas fans thought they got damaged goods. But to the surprise of many, he has transformed his season since becoming a rojiblanco. In seven appearances, he's scored seven goals, including six in the last four matches. Although Chivas failed to qualify for the playoffs, it hasn't been because of the offense, but rather defensive shortcomings. Put simply, JPA's been playing great for Chivas.
The challenge on Sunday will be if JPA can step up and score for Chivas against the Galaxy. Instead of being a washed-up player that many believed him to be, he's enjoying an Indian Summer, and he will surely be motivated to show the Galaxy what they're missing. For the Galaxy, they'll surely mark him closely, unless they are so arrogant that they'll dare him to overcome his bad mojo with the Galaxy and play him as they would anybody else. If, however, the Galaxy do mark him more closely, it may open up opportunities for Justin Braun, Alejandro Moreno, Nick LaBrocca and anybody else who might step up with an offensive contribution. Somehow, I think JPA's teammates will attempt to set him up as well. Obviously, we can't know if he'll actually score, but I'll put this out there: if he scored, would he celebrate? Go really crazy with a celebration? Or quietly walk away? Hopefully we can find out.
Why Chivas will win this match: Ok, let's be real. If we're looking at the records, at the squads, at the head-to-head record, Chivas' chances don't look good at all. I can't offer a lot of concrete reasons for why Chivas will win beyond "I have a good feeling." However, there are a few factors that will help bolster Chivas chances. First, the Galaxy have clinched the Supporters Shield and are set for the playoffs, so they have nothing on the line in the larger picture. As a result, they may end up resting many of their key players, as Josie Becker reasoned in the three questions feature. The Galaxy are a deep team, and those players will be motivated to impress Bruce Arena ahead of the playoffs, but nobody can deny there is a deep drop in talent from the superstars to the second string. That may help Chivas.
Somewhat less significantly, Chivas are playing a "road" game at the Home Depot Center. The crowd will be pro-Galaxy, but otherwise, the surroundings are going to be familiar to the Goats. Maybe that can help them get a better result this time around.
Why the Galaxy will win this match: I'll keep this simple, so that I don't have to spend too much time dwelling on the obvious. This is a juggernaut team, one that has only lost four matches all season, and hasn't lost at home all season. They are putting together a season that will rank among the best, if not the best, in MLS history. They have a very talented team, and despite missing significant time Landon Donovan is tied for the league lead in goals, while David Beckham has finally gotten serious with the Galaxy (contract year!) and is tied for the league lead in assists. Two goalkeepers, Donovan Ricketts and Josh Saunders, have played significant minutes and anchored an outstanding defense. So yeah, nobody would be surprised if the Galaxy wins. Let's move on.
Why this game will end in a draw: The talent level will be a bit lopsided, even if some of the starters on the Galaxy don't play. Both teams will be motivated, but Chivas are solely focused on this match, while the Galaxy have the playoffs, CONCACAF Champions League, and whatever else Hollywood concerns go on around them. Plus, in the last meeting, the teams played a pretty evenly matched game, although the Galaxy got the win. That has to provide some hope for Chivas coming into this game. As a result, I wouldn't be surprised if both teams play tight and/or fatigued and it ends in a draw. I doubt it will be a rout either way, and I'm guessing if it is a draw, it will be 1-1.
Chivas: Paulo Nagamura (foot), Michael Umana (knee), Heath Pearce (hamstring, listed as doubtful), Justin Braun (calf, listed as probable)
Galaxy: Frankie Hejduk (suspended, yellow card accumulation), Sean Franklin (knee), Bryan Jordan (finger), Robbie Keane (adductor), David Beckham (back, listed as questionable), Gregg Berhalter (foot, listed as questionable), Landon Donovan (quad, listed as questionable), Mike Magee (hamstring, listed as questionable), Donovan Ricketts (quad, listed as questionable)