Culture clash? Or mutual respect between co-tenants LA Galaxy, Chivas USA?
CARSON, Calif. – There is no socializing in the Home Depot Center hallways on SuperClasico week.
Chivas USA players go about their business. Galaxy players do the same. The sharing of training facilities has built many friendships in the past, but those are put on hold for three weeks a year.
“We’re all grown ups and we’re all professionals, so we’re cordial with one another,” Chivas USA forward Tristan Bowen told MLSsoccer.com. “No one is walking around disrespecting the other, but we understand that we will bump into each other on the field. In my personal experience, everything is good until that week hits. You do sense a little more tension in the environment – guys are not willing to sit down and talk.”
Though the clubs share the same market and stadium, the cultural differences between the two are striking. The four-time MLS Cup-champion Galaxy have three players from South America – Brazilians Juninho, Leonardo and Marcelo Sarvas – while Chivas USA tout 11 players who were born in Latin American countries, plus many others with Hispanic heritage.
“Everyone has their own way of doing things,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “Chivas has their plan and we have ours. You have to be proven wrong or proven right in the things you do. It's that simple.”
And though the Galaxy have been far more successful with their formula, respect among the players remains a staple of this unique rivalry.
“Without a doubt, there's a respect between the two teams,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “We see the players all the time, and we're in the same boat in the same league, [just] different circumstances, different teams. At the end of the day, these are your colleagues, and you see them every day, so I think we're on good terms with them.”
Arena noted he does not pay attention to what Chivas USA does, saying he has his "own way of doing things." Normally outspoken Chivas USA manager José Luis Sánchez Solá declined an interview request.
Bowen, the only remaining Rojiblancos member who has also played for the Galaxy, is motivated to perform well against his former team. The only time the 22-year-old has played against them since his 2011 move came in a Reserve League match.
“This is a new group of guys, but I do think that the Galaxy looks down on our organization and, to be honest, that’s fine,” Bowen said. “We need to earn our respect. It’s not only earning the respect of the Galaxy, but of this league. Everyone has a perception of what we are. That’s fine. That’s an outside perspective. We know we’re just like any other team. We’re in the MLS and we’re going to battle to win a championship.”
While the cultures are undoubtedly different, Dunivant doubts Chivas USA is doing anything to model itself after its rival.
“They're trying to do their own model,” Dunivant said. “They're trying to create their own brand and print their own type of soccer religion on this league and in this country. Whether it works or not remains to be seen, but they're putting everything they have into doing it their own way.”
Chivas USA, based on what Sánchez Solá has said over and over again since taking the helm in December, hopes to appeal to the community with its heritage to sister club CD Guadalajara. Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy sees the club's current course as an important step toward distinguishing itself from the Galaxy.
“I don’t think we need to conform to anything they’re doing to be successful,” Kennedy told MLSsoccer.com. “We need to do it our way and hopefully let the play on the field talk for itself.”
For three weeks a year, that much unfolds on the pitch.
“We’ve built some great relationships with them,” Kennedy said. “We’ve competed against them for a long time but, with that being said, it only puts more on the line. It makes it more competitive. The last person you want to lose to is your friend.”