Can LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan produce one last memory against old rivals Chivas USA?
CARSON, Calif. – It’s a sizable countdown of "lasts" that Landon Donovan is checking off these final few months of his playing career, and Sunday brings a somewhat significant finale: His last SuperClasico.
And, naturally, what’s most meaningful for the LA Galaxy legend as he prepares for his final meeting with Chivas USA (8 pm ET, Univision Deportes) – unless the Goats somehow claw their way into the postseason – is the opportunity to snag three more points .
"I guess every time I play a team for the last time, it will be a little bit different, a little interesting," Donovan said following the Galaxy’s training session Saturday morning at StubHub Center. "I want to make sure I enjoy it, as I have with all these games, but once the whistle blows, it’s just another game that we need three points in. And that’s sort of how I approach it."
The SuperClasico, pairing the only MLS clubs who currently share a city (and a stadium), has been Donovan’s personal playground since Chivas USA debuted in 2005. He’s played in 28 of 33 editions, including the US Open Cup victory in 2005 and the playoff series in 2009, with 14 goals and 17 assists in all competitions.
He’s enjoyed a lot of big performances – a hat trick in a 2008 romp, goals in both playoff games the following year, four assists in a 2012 rout, two goals last year to match Jeff Cunningham’s career MLS goals record -- a mark he broke in May -- as the Galaxy have dominated the series, 21-4-8.
"I remember the first one [a 3-1 Galaxy win in April 2005]," said Donovan, who will be honored by Chivas before kickoff. "I remember a lot of the first couple of years, because there was so much [marketing] put into it, and in those days, they were relatively easy victories for us, because Chivas was an expansion team. So it wasn’t necessarily what happened on the field, it was just the environment around it that was a lot of fun.
"And then, obviously, the playoff series we had, which could end up being the only one that was ever played [between the rivals]."
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The Galaxy are 12-1-5 in the series since Chivas won back-to-back 3-0 decisions in 2007, when the squad included the likes of Sacha Kljestan, Jonathan Bornstein, Jesse Marsch, and Brad Guzan.
"They were a very good team there," Donovan says. "A lot of [our success since then] is attributable to us having stability and them having a lot of instability. It’s a little sad for their players, because they have some great players who have been here through the years. But the organization’s had a lot of uncertainty."
Chivas, which was purchased by the league earlier this year, is expected to be re-sold and rebranded in the coming months, so this is likely the last time the Galaxy will take on a team called Chivas USA.
"I think Nelson [Rodriguez, the MLS-appointed president of Chivas USA] has done a great job," Donovan said. "I think [coach Wilmer] Cabrera has done a great job with them this year and made them competitive and brought some stability. And you hope for everyone’s sake that that continues."