The Throw-In: How Chivas USA can win back bragging rights, hearts and minds from LA Galaxy
Very quietly – indeed, too quietly – Sunday marks the 30th all-time meeting in competitive play between Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy.
And the reason it’s so quiet is no secret: The Los Angeles SuperClasico is no contest. The Galaxy have won 18 of those meetings between the StubHub Center co-tenants across all competitions and have outscored the Goats by an almost depressing 50-25 margin. That is not a misprint.
But as an LA native, I remember a very brief time when all wasn’t completely blue-and-gold in Carson. In 2007, it was all Rojiblanco at the former HDC. While the Galaxy struggled to adapt to a certain Englishman, Chivas USA had it all figured out.
Under Preki, they were purring, with Sacha Kljestan pulling the strings in midfeld, Jesse Marsch backing him up, Claudio Suárez policing the backline, Jonny Bornstein overlapping with glee, Maykel Galindo and Ante Razov blasting the net full of goals and Brad Guzan keeping the other end neat and tidy.
Chivas finished first in the Western Conference that season, just two points off the Supporters’ Shield. But that season also marked the only time they won the bragging rights from their across-the-hall rivals, going 2-1-1 in their four regular-season meetings.
And that was the end of it. The dominant Galaxy have nearly run the table since then, and entering Sunday’s match (11 pm ET, UniMas), they’ve also won eight of the last 10 meetings between the teams.
It’s also no secret that Chivas USA have fallen on some hard times of late. It’s a time of transition and something of a time of uncertainty, and that’s best left to another space than this one. But despite all that, I believe the Rojiblancos have the ability to take back Los Angeles.
Almost every MLS franchise has hit its own dark days. And the truth is there’s no quick fix. But there are some things Chivas USA can do to recapture the all-too-brief glory days of ’07. Here are one man’s suggestions.
Make a bold roster move that will raise eyebrows. Now let’s be honest: Probably the only move that would really stick it to those guys across to the hall and shock all of MLS would be to somehow wrangle a deal for supposed Galaxy target Giovani dos Santos. That would immediately make Chivas USA must-see TV and would cause ripples abroad, too.
I realize that's almost certainly not going to happen. And that’s fine. But there are a few things the Goats can do that are within reason that can help them slowly win back some traction. Erik “El Cubo” Torres would be a good start, if the reports are to be believed. He’s a young striker with tons of upside and does have highlight-reel potential.
And there are other potential targets. Go get Carlos Bocanegra from Rangers and bring home a SoCal icon who is considering a return. Give him the captain’s armband and give the franchise a face all fans can identify with. Rescue Bornstein from purgatory at Tigres UANL and put him back in a place where he will succeed immediately.
Make a statement with a long-term coaching hire. José Luis “Güero” Real is an interim, the clubs says. That means it has a unique opportunity with the next full-time guy. Go pick a full-time coach who has experience in MLS, maybe even someone who played for the club. What’s Marsch up to these days? Would director of soccer Francisco “Paco” Palencia consider taking the field? What about Suárez, who still lives in the area?
Rather try an established MLS coach? There are plenty to choose from. Surprise the league by bringing Frank Yallop back to Carson, but in the other locker room. Consider Steve Sampson, who still lives in LA, is a fluent Spanish-speaker and does TV commentary. Or do something really bold and finally take a risk on Eric Wynalda.
Get your own home, pronto. Yes, I know I'm preaching to the choir here. But there is a good opportunity around the corner to make a statement on the stadium front. Chivas USA's lease with StubHub Center ends after the 2014 season, and then it’s a brave new world.
The rumors of a stadium deal in Exposition Park are just that for right now – as are these new reports of a downtown LA stadium, just steps from the corporate headquarters of Galaxy owners AEG. But there is a bigger takeaway here.
If Chivas USA can strike a deal in either location, they’ll have a big leg up on their rivals: They will have a home within Los Angeles city limits. That’s something that even the Galaxy have never been able to say. And it brings us to the last point...
WATCH: The story behind Chivas' second jersey
Rebrand, but don’t really rebrand. There has been plenty of talk around the soccer scene about whether or not the "Chivas" brand has the right appeal to lift the club out of its current doldrums.
To my way of thinking, abandoning the CD Guadalajara brand altogether is not the answer. That’s a cop-out and an easy excuse for critics. But tweaking the message is certainly within reason.
In fact, the answer might be staring us all in the face. Or at least it is if you’re standing behind a Chivas USA player. The team’s second jersey unveiled for this season (and worn, tragically, in only two games thus far) features a unique secondary crest on the back of the shirt that is a riff on the city flag of Los Angeles (see video at right).
What if the club took the alternate crest as its primary? Real Salt Lake did it. And maybe the Rojiblancos could take it further and tweak the name. "Club Deportivo Los Angeles" sounds good to this Angeleno. It drives home the point that the club is LA’s team. And the iconic red-and-white stripes are fine with me. They're your calling card.
But this whole approach would not only meet Guadalajara halfway, but also engender the club to the town it calls home – and its fans. After all, who is the target audience: fans of Chivas Guadalajara? Or soccer fans in Los Angeles?
Don't answer that. It can be and should be both. And sometime soon, who knows? The Galaxy might start sweating again.
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com. "The Throw-In" appears every Thursday.