Besides the usual rivalry, the final Super Clasico of the year between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center is one that will have the entire weight of the season coming down on it.
The teams have evenly split their previous three meetings, each team winning one with one draw. But besides bragging rights in Los Angeles for the next year, Saturday's game will also likely determine the postseason future for each club. The Galaxy are hanging onto a one last thread of hope to make the playoffs and defend their MLS Cup title. But, with six points separating the Green-and-Gold from Colorado and the fourth and final playoff spot, they can't afford a single loss over the remainder of the season.
"It is a game that we need to get three points out of, and at this point in the season it is crucial for us," said Galaxy head coach Frank Yallop. "We cannot lose a game, so we are going crazy moving forward, and those are things we are not used to doing, but we obviously have to try to win the match. Chivas is trying to grab those last few points, so it is setting up to be a really good game."
After a disastrous campaign in their first year in MLS, Chivas USA can clinch a playoff berth with a win and . To do so against their biggest rival in the league adds yet another dimension to a series that has been entertaining throughout the season.
"The Galaxy will come out with their pride of fighting until the end and trying to hold onto the MLS Cup," said Chivas USA head coach Bob Bradley. "For us, in our second year, it is a tremendous opportunity to put ourselves into the playoffs, and win over a big rival puts us in a good position to play for that MLS Cup this year."
The game should play into the hands of Chivas USA. The Red-and-White came into the league dedicated to playing attacking soccer. Last season it left them exposed at the back and cost them games much more often than not. But with the Galaxy forced to push numbers forward, the Chivas counterattack just might decide the game on Saturday.
Galaxy second-year center back Ugo Ihemelu will have his work cut our for him, as well as the rest of the Galaxy rearguard to keep Chivas off of the scoreboard.
"I feel that there is more pressure and demands on me, since I have experienced (the Clasico) already," said Ihemelu. "We have some younger guys on the field, so I will have to be more of a leader on the field than I was last year. It is going to be a good game, and it is going to force players to be at their best."
The Galaxy have been on the outside of the playoff picture for most of the season. The results of the last few weeks have though have turned the phrase "must win" from a cliché into a mathematical reality.
"[Saturday] is going to be fun and probably a little but emotional," said Landon Donovan. "For us, however, we have been in this situation for a few weeks now, and as far as us being battle tested there isn't much to say."
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.