Chivas USA rallied from a goal down to salvage a 2-2 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday afternoon at The Home Depot Center to open their two-game Western Conference Semifinal Series.
The Red-and-White leapt out to an early lead thanks to Maicon Santos, but fell victim to two defensive lapses to drop behind to their in-stadium rivals. Only a 50th-minute strike from Maykel Galindo saved a draw for the home side.
The result hands Los Angeles a slight advantage heading into the second leg of the first-ever playoff Super Clásico. The Galaxy will be the home side next Sunday when the two teams meet once again at The Home Depot Center.
Buoyed by a jubilant, near-capacity crowd, Chivas USA stormed out of the gate in the game's opening minutes. Attacking with pace, the Red-and-White took the lead just four minutes into match when Sacha Kljestan collected a loose ball in the midfield and sent a long ball ahead to Maicon Santos. Santos darted inside of Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez just outside the penalty area and drilled a low shot into the far right corner of the net past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
The Galaxy equalized just 10 minutes later. After a run of good passes through the midfield, Dema Kovalenko chipped a ball across the top of the Chivas USA area to Landon Donovan. Donovan headed the effort into the path of Mike Magee, who pounced on a poor clearance in the box by Yamith Cuesta and slammed the ball past Zach Thornton to even the score at 1-1.
The visitors continued to dominate the run of play as the game passed into the later stages of the first half. Led by the play of David Beckham and Donovan, the Galaxy controlled much of the tempo with incisive passing through the midfield and aggressive attacking in the final third. Chivas USA were able to stymie much of the onslaught with good defense and hard tackling, but the home side looked a bit disjointed in their own offensive efforts.
Los Angeles finally found their second goal in the 41st minute, again taking advantage of a mis-clearance from Chivas USA. Beckham lined up for a Galaxy corner kick and sent a good ball toward the penalty spot that, after a few bounces in the area, fell to the feet of Maicon Santos just outside of the Chivas area.
Santos tried to clear the ball, but his effort took a strange bounce off his shin and ricocheted back toward the Chivas USA net. Donovan beat Carey Talley to the loose ball and tucked a low shot from close range under Zach Thornton to put the Galaxy into the lead just before halftime.
Chivas USA started the second half exactly the way they started the first, attacking hard and scoring within five minutes of the opening whistle. It was substitute striker Galindo who capitalized this time, intercepting a backpass from Omar Gonzalez toward Ricketts from the right sideline and slotting home in an empty net to even the score in the 50th minute.
The Red-and-White almost scored again just seven minutes later. Carey Talley sent a good cross in off a Chivas USA corner kick that was initially swatted away by the Galaxy defense. The clearance fell to the feet of Paulo Nagamura at the top of the box, who blasted a shot toward the right side of net that was only kept out by a diving save from Ricketts.
Ricketts was tested again in the 59th minute when Justin Braun sent a cross along the top of the Galaxy goal area that fell to the feet of Santos. Santos one-touched toward the low post but his effort was swept aside by another sliding effort by Jamaican international Ricketts.
Los Angeles began to find its footing as the match passed into the 70th minute. Substitutes Alan Gordon and Eddie Lewis gave the visitors a much-needed energy boost and helped the Galaxy to push back into Chivas USA's end. The largest threat was Donovan, whose sheer pace helped spark a handful of LA counterattack near-chances for LA.
Both teams searched desperately for a game-winner in the match's final 10 minutes. The Galaxy came close when Gordon attempted a 10-yard shot that went well wide of Thornton. The only problem was Donovan was alone on the side and screamed at Gordon for taking the ill-advised shot.
Gordon then almost put the Galaxy ahead in the 80th minute when Donovan chipped a ball across the area, but his header from just outside the goal area went wide.
The teams will now move onto next Sunday's second leg to determine who will move onto the Western Conference Championship.
Jeffrey King is a contributor to MLSnet.com.