The Clean Sheet: A classic bummer
I'm sure there are things I have looked forward to more than this Saturday's inaugural Honda Super Clásico at The Home Depot Center, I just can't think of that many of them right now. My first trip to Roscoe's Fried Chicken & Waffles here on Planet LA and when I finally get to see Tom Jones in Vegas are about all that come to mind.
So imagine my horror a few months ago when the Matriarch of the Palace calls up from my beloved Hicktown, Minnesota and says the whole family is coming into town for a command performance Passover get together ... the night of April 23.
We're talking disappointment you can't even measure. I mean, this is an "Ocean's Twelve"-type letdown. Yes, I will not be at the first meeting between the Galaxy and Chivas USA. Sorry, it helps to say it out loud.
The teams have not played a match yet and some say their "rivalry" is only defined by geography. Uh, OK. Babes, the rivalry is there - it has already begun off the field, and now will move onto the pitch Saturday night.
Believe me, this is real.
The front offices have been competing for months, no matter what anyone says publicly. Chivas USA has fired several shots, from buying its way into playing at The Home Depot Center to hiring away Galaxy exec Whit Haskel to run the club's business operations. I wasn't at the match last weekend, but I read Chivas honored Carlos Ruiz at the HDC. Cute.
And as I've said before (and with absolutely no disrespect to the very likeable Thomas Rongen), I am still a bit shocked Chivas didn't go out and make former Galaxy gaffer Sigi Schmid its first manager. How much fun would that have been?
Chivas USA had all the preseason buzz, all the mystery and all the attention. What about the Galaxy?
Planet LA's original MLS entrant was undergoing a major facelift and there were questions everywhere. How would Chivas affect the Galaxy at the gate and in the sponsorship world? How would the, uh, "confident" demeanor and style of Steve Sampson fit in with the Galaxy players, organization and supporters? Speaking of players, would there be any guys left from last year?
Then the Galaxy went to Columbus and got crushed, 3-0, with Landon Donovan sidelined with the flu. Was Señor Vergara smiling somewhere?
If he was, it lasted all of a week. Because while Chivas USA had not sold out its wonderfully-colorful home opener, a comparatively-packed house saw Landon Donovan make his claim as the newest superstar on the L.A. sports scene. His brace at the home opener in front of the masses seemed to remind everyone that the Galaxy are still the big kids on Victoria Street until someone knocks them off.
And frankly, that ain't gonna happen this weekend. While the Galaxy side looked good enough in their home opener to make everyone forget about the opening-night debacle, Chivas USA is still - a reminder here - an expansion team. Their offense has always been a question mark, and with a banged-up back line and rookie Brad Guzan giving up soft goals (sorry Ronnie, that shot should never have gone in), Landon, Pando Ramirez and the boys have got to be expecting the goals to come in bunches this weekend. I know I do.
So it says here the first chapter should go to the Galaxy with ease. But Rongen will shape his team in time, Martin Zuniga will return, and hopefully Chivas will bring in some new and exciting faces to add some punch to the existing nucleus. This club will raise itself towards the level of the parent club. The Chivas ownership will accept nothing less.
So the good news for Chivas USA - and for your old pal Tino: there are three more Clásicos this season. And while I'm sure they will only get better, The Home Depot Center this Saturday is simply the place to be in our little soccer world.
Yet I will be in Minnesota, eating bitter herbs. Fitting, huh?
The Clean Sheet runs each Thursday on MLSnet. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com. Send any questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.