Photo by ISIphotos.com
BY ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, CALIF– Landon Donovan owns Chivas USA. The stats show it, and anyone who has watched the 'SuperClasico" in recent years knows it.
Donovan has recorded 10 goals in 18 career matches vs. Chivas USA since their rivalry began, and based on his comments leading up to tonight's game between the Los Angees Galaxy and Chivas USA, it's safe to say Donovan believes the Rojiblancos are vulnerable yet again.
"(Chivas) are little bit different because they've lost their heart in the midfield with Jesse (Marsch) and Paulo (Nagamura) being gone." Donovan said. "They're still a team that has to find their own identity going forward."
Donovan's words ring true for a Chivas USA team that has changed greatly since being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Galaxy last season. In their first match of the season, Chivas struggled to implement its new midfield triangle and was overmatched by the physical Rapids midfield. While Chivas continues to gel under new coach Martin Vasquez, the LA Galaxy head into the Home Depot Center as a club looking to build on their unsatisfactory opening night victory against New England.
As both teams look ahead to tonight's match, it is Donovan who holds the key to victory for both sides.
In order for the Rojiblancos to earn their first victory over the Galaxy since September 2007, the club will need to stop the Galaxy midfielder, who has scored 10 goals on Chivas since the rivalry began.
"Landon is a great player and I have a lot of respect for his play, but we must be careful and remain vigilant when marking him because at any moment, he can completely change the game," said Chivas USA center back Michael Umana. "However, it will be most important for us to do our job defensively rather than worry about him."
The Costa Rican International is no stranger to playing against Donovan, having faced him at an International level, but Umana was also his teammate on the Galaxy's 2005 Championship side. Umana makes up the new defensive partnership for the Rojiblancos, with co-captain Jonathan Bornstein. The pair put in a very even performance over 90 minutes against Colorado, but will be facing a much more potent offense than the Rapids. Bornstein has his own vivid memories of facing off against Donovan that he will look to erase tonight.
"In my first SuperClásico, I lost the ball late in the game to Landon and he ran up the field for the goal, said Bornstein. "It may not be the best of memories, but it reminds me that I need to bring my A game against the Galaxy and be ready for anything."
While the focus on the Chivas side may be stopping Donovan, those on the Galaxy side of the building will be looking to get him more involved in the club's attack. In the club's victory against New England, the midfielder enjoyed a bittersweet night, setting up the winning goal, but unable to help the club score the second goal to put the match on away.
"After the match, Bruce Arena put a piece of paper in my locker that read, zero fouls suffered, zero fouls given, zero shots and zero goals," said Donovan. "That is not good enough for me and I will take that to heart so that can change."
Los Angeles enters the match eager to display a consistent offensive performance in the SuperClásico. Last season, Galaxy enjoyed a great deal of offensive success against their rivals having little trouble scoring against Chivas' vaunted defense. Unlike in most years though, the Galaxy understand that there are many questions surrounding this Chivas team.
"We really don't know what to expect from them or who will be playing for them, it's a little bit of a crap shoot," said Donovan. "We're a much more stable club and I believe that will be good enough for us to win."
Lastly, Chivas USA Goalkeeper Zach Thornton trained extensively during the week, but look for Dan Kennedy to continue to start as the 27-year old has spent a considerable amount of time training with the first team this week. Regardless of who will be playing, tempers will be flying as the teams take the field in tonight's SuperClásico. With all that has been made of the rivalry, it's Jonathan Bornstein who described the match best.
'It's always going to be an intense game because both sides have the same goal, to rule LA."