By MARK EDWARD HORNISH
CARSON, Calif.– The LA Galaxy and CD Chivas USA squared off in the 29th edition of the SuperClasico on a warm Sunday afternoon at the Stub Hub Center. The result was just like old times, with the Galaxy putting on a dominating performance, downing the Rojiblanco, 3-0, in front of an announced crowd of 15,008.
Galaxy captain Robbie Keane tallied first, ushering with his hips a Dan Gargan cross header past a lunging Dan Kennedy to push the ball over the goal line in the 37th minute. Stefan Ishizaki was sent in by Juninho just minutes later and found pay dirt with a clever left footed chip from a sharp angle to double the Galaxy lead.
The visitor’s final – and best – goal came in the 56th minute, when the black-clad Galaxy put on a sparkling display of combination play in the attacking third. LA strung together 11 consecutive touches that culminated with Landon Donovan, back to the goal, parked on the penalty spot, laying the ball back to Baggio Husidic, who drove a shot hard and low to beat Kennedy into the left corner of the netting.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena sent out a surprising lineup, and the unlikely formation paid off. Donovan moved up top, paired with his old strike partner Keane for the first time this season. Arena left Gyasi Zardes off the 18 man roster, and strung together a veteran midfield of Husidic, Stefan Ishizaki, Juninho, and Sarvas.
“They’re all good soccer players,” said Arena regarding his midfielders after the game. “There’s enough bite in them, where they can win tackles…they can all pass the ball pretty well. Those are good characteristics for midfield players.”
Arena played Ishizaki centrally, at the top of a midfield diamond, while swinging Husidic out wide left. Both players were added to the roster in the offseason. However, it was Ishizaki who was brought in to give the Galaxy width in the attack, and Husidic to give the Galaxy depth centrally.
This reversal of roles paid obvious dividends, as Ishizaki started the buildup on the first goal with a beautiful long cross before netting the second himself. Husidic meanwhile added the third goal, and should have had a brace when he was left open in front of net in the 90th minute, stopped only by a strong diving effort by a beleaguered Kennedy.
“I think Bruce has played a lot of central midfielders in the diamond shape,” Husidic said. “He’s kind of hoping for us to play more possession, more passing kind of team, get the outside backs around. It seems to be working.”
It was not all joy for the Galaxy. Left back Tod Dunivant, recovering from a persistent hamstring injury and making his first start of the MLS season, had to exit the game early, clutching his abdomen. Minutes later, right back Dan Gargan took a hard spill defending an Erik Torres run into the box and came up – a full minute later – groggy and clutching his shoulder.
With A.J. De La Garza and James Riley both out of the lineup with injuries, the Galaxy can ill afford to lose any more fullbacks. Rookie Oscar Sorto made his first appearance with the Galaxy first team, coming on for Dunivant in the 75th minute. When Gargan came out, Arena was out of fullbacks, and had to resort to bringing on center back Tommy Meyer to play one of the wide slots.
For Chivas USA, it can only be viewed as a disappointing result, after accumulating five points in their first four games, and looking much improved in the process. They showed little in the attack, while being repeatedly exposed in the back.
“Today, since I’ve been here, we played our worst game, as a team, individually and collectively,” said Chivas USA head coach Wilmer Cabreras. “Today’s game is not a game that you take lightly, especially with the LA Galaxy. They (out)played us, and we never were a threat.”
If Sunday was a step back, Chivas USA will have to wait until the 30th SuperClasico to try to take back the Stub Hub Center from their “big brothers.” The Galaxy have now beaten the Goats three straight without surrendering a goal. The next SuperClasico is June 8.
The Galaxy host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night, April 12, while Chivas heads to Portland to attempt to right the ship.