CARSON, Calif. – About half an hour following Sunday’s SuperClasico and after celebratory Mexican music had stopped blaring from the locker room speakers, Chivas USA manager José Luis Sánchez Solá pulled Eric Ávila back in and asked his midfielder if he was truly pleased with the team's 1-1 draw against the rival LA Galaxy.
Ávila shrugged and mumbled to himself, forcing Sánchez Solá to playfully grab him and force a smile out of the player whose initial pass led to the Carlos Borja assist on Carlos Álvarez’s game-tying goal in the 89th minute. “El Chelís” laughed and smiled, too, but moments earlier in his press conference with reporters had shown he wasn’t quite that happy.
Sánchez Solá was candid in his criticism of head referee Ricardo Salazar for his decision to send off Joaquín Velázquez in the 40th minute for an aggressive challenge that put Chivas USA (1-1-1) in defense mode throughout the final 50 minutes of the contest.
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“A human being has to conduct himself with respect and has to know how to respect others,” Sánchez Solá told reporters. “Our adversary was magnificent. They are by far the best team in the league and one of the best on this continent. I respect what they do, but they are New York’s team. They are the team of the New York office. … There were 70 fouls that cut our defense or amplified their offense, so in a way, that’s biased. That sort of team exists in Spain with Real Madrid and Argentina with Boca Juniors. There is a team in every country. Galaxy is that team here.”
Salazar cited “serious foul play” as the reason for Velázquez’s ejection, which the Galaxy finally capitalized on in the 83rd minute thanks to Jack McBean’s impressive header. Sánchez Solá said he spoke to the referees as he walked off the pitch at halftime, but didn’t get the reaction he expected.
“While I told him at halftime to call a fair match, he laughed,” Sánchez Solá recalled. “He had a wide smile on his face, as if to say, ‘This idiot.’”
It was heated at times, with Chivas assistant coach Walter Fleita earning an ejection immediately following McBean’s go-ahead score. The physicality was not surprising given rebuilt Chivas USA’s ambition to earn respect not only in this league, but in the city. While Sean Franklin, Marcelo Sarvas and Robbie Keane received yellow cards for the Galaxy, Marvin Iraheta earned a yellow shortly after coming on for the injured Oswaldo Minda, who had an encounter with Mike Magee that had Galaxy manager Bruce Arena up in arms.
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“That tackle, Minda had me feeling he was going to try to end me and I got a couple gashes on my leg to prove it,” Magee said. “As I was getting up, at least three of their people said to watch out because that’s what he’s known for. It’s frustrating because at that point you want to get somebody back, but you can’t get sent off, and on that tackle he had to leave the game which, for the first time in my life, I kind of smiled when the guy was leaving the field.”
The aggressive display by Chivas was evident, with Sánchez Solá explaining he’s here to win.
“Sure, they can fine me and rip up my passport, but I’m not here to be a joker,” Sánchez Solá said. “Some might say I’m here to draw laughs, but I’m not here for that. I’m here to field a serious team.”
After the final whistle, Sánchez Solá was the first to walk toward his club’s supporters in the Northwest corner of the stadium. He extended his arms and waved in gratitude.
“We earned a point, but in respect we earned 100,” Sánchez Solá said. “In that respect, we were the winning team.”