June 21, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Los Angeles Galaxy
CARSON, Calif. - It was back in mid-March when the LA Galaxy took on Chivas USA, a team they knew almost nothing about, in the first SuperClasico of 2013.
At the time, Chivas USA were boasting a new coach in Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, a number of new players and featured an ultra-aggressive style of soccer that resulted in a chippy 1-1 tie with the two-time defending MLS Cup champions.
Three months removed from that first meeting, the Galaxy (6-6-3, 21 points) will face a Chivas USA (3-9-2, 11 points) side that feature a new coach, an ever-changing roster and a new, more orthodox style of play. After a bright start to the season, Chivas USA have struggled over the last two and a half months, relieving Sola of his duties in late May and replacing him with interim coach Sacha van der Most before Jose Luis Real was officially introduced on June 13 as the club's new head coach.
After losing 3-1 to Vancouver on Wednesday night in Real's debut - a loss that extended their winless streak to nine games - Chivas USA head into Sunday's second leg of the SuperClasico at StubHub Center (8 p.m., UniMas, Time Warner Cable Sportsnet, AM 1150, 1330 AM, LIVECHAT) as a club in disarray.
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But despite those recent results, Galaxy players are not overlooking their rival by any means.
"From my experience, these games are the most dangerous ones," said Galaxy goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, coming off his fifth shutout of the season in a scoreless draw against the Portland Timbers on Wednesday. "You have to be prepared mentally more than physically. We cannot make mistakes, especially after a good draw on Wednesday night. We need to pick up some points. We need to keep our level of concentration.
"This could be a tricky one."
Chivas USA, in last place in the Western Conference, have scored just four goals in their nine-game winless streak, conceding 22 times in that span and allowing more than a single goal in each of the last seven games. They are 0-8-1 during that streak, taking just one of a possible 27 points. The lone draw came back on April 27 when they played to a 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes. Chivas have not won a league game since beating Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2-1 at home on March 30.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena admitted he hasn't kept up much with Chivas USA this season, but expects them to give the Galaxy a battle, regardless of who is in the lineup.
"I haven't followed them that much," he said. "There's a little bit of roster turnover, which I can't figure out anyway. This will be the coach's second game; there's not a whole lot of history there.
"Regardless of what has happened previous to our game, this is the game of the year for them. One would predict they're going to play with a lot of emotion and be quite competitive regardless of who they play and how they play."
While the home side's lineup is an unknown, the Galaxy are expected to welcome central midfielder Marcelo Sarvas and central defender Omar Gonzalez back into the team. Sarvas was suspended for Wednesday night's 0-0 draw with Portland, missing a league game for the first time this year. Gonzalez, after playing five games over the last four weeks with the U.S. National Team, returned to training on Friday and the duo said that they are excited to get back onto the field against their StubHub Center co-tenants.
If Gonzalez does return, he will likely be paired alongside A.J. DeLaGarza, who expects Chivas USA to throw everything into Sunday night's SuperClasico.
"You're playing a team that just got a new head coach, they're kind of at the bottom of the table. We're not overlooking Chivas at all," defender A.J. DeLaGarza said. "We know we're going to get their best."