By ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, Calif. –- Heading into the first rivalry match of the season, things could be going better for both Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy, but the fact that both teams are struggling in the standings does not take away from one of the MLS' most heated rivalries.
Currently the Galaxy are 3-5-2 and seventh overall in the Western Conference, while Chivas find themselves one spot below with a record of 3-6-1. Although both teams are not playing their best at the moment, some believe that the struggles might just make the match a tad more electric.
“Obviously, it’s a little different than in some years past, because we’re both struggling a little bit, so there is probably added meaning in that way, because we both need the points,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “They come off a game where they went to one of the better teams in the league and probably should have won, and we come off a performance that we felt really good and were probably unlucky not to win too, so it’s going to be a good one.”
The SuperClásico will cap a whirlwind week for the Galaxy that included two days in Washington, D.C., to meet with President Barack Obama, who honored the club for their 2011 MLS Cup triumph. Although the timing of the trip was difficult, the Galaxy believe that the trip was a valuable bonding experience.
“Being on the road was really good for us,” Donovan said. “We had a full day in Montreal for guys to just hang out and walk around and then we had some really good bonding time in the White House, an experience not a lot of people get to do, and we shared it together, so I think it actually helped us a lot.”
While the Galaxy are building their team spirit, Chivas made improvements of their own by trading for forward Juan Agudelo and centerback Danny Califf in efforts to bolster the squad. On Thursday, Chivas head coach Robin Fraser said that both players are expected to be available for the Galaxy match, but for Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, Chivas' moves do not change his preprations.
“They can trade all of them or keep all of them, it doesn’t impact us at all,” Arena said. “Our focus is on the 11 we’re getting on the field.”
DONOVAN, KEANE PREPARING FOR INTERNATIONAL DUTY
After Saturday’s match the Galaxy will likely lose two members of their Designated Player trio, as Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane prepare to join their respective international squads.
Donovan’s case has been an interesting one as of late, as the midfielder has not played with the U.S. since head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s second match last September. Although many have wondered whether Donovan had gone out of favor with the U.S. head coach, the Galaxy captain expects that the Chivas match will be his final one with the Galaxy for a few weeks.
“Fairly likely, I don’t know for sure … but it could be for a long time, so I want to go out the right way if that’s the case,” said Donovan, who also addressed his pending call-up in comments made at the White House on Tuesday.
Donovan will miss the Galaxy's matches against the San Jose Earthquakes (May 23) and Houston Dynamo (May 26), but following the Houston match, the Galaxy will not play another MLS match until June 17, allowing him to miss far less time than he would have in the past.
“The league did a really good job of doing that and later in the year, too, they’re taking maybe a little break during qualifying,” Donovan said. “It’s nice, because it’s frustrating to miss games with our teams. It’s not perfect yet, but they’re taking steps to alleviate that.”
Meanwhile, Keane will depart after the Chivas match to join up with Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland squad for the 2012 European championship. Although the Chivas match is his final one with the club for some time, Keane admits that he’s not allowing himself to look ahead to the job ahead with Ireland.
“You have to take it as a normal game. It’s a good game against your rivals so everyone is looking forward it, but I think you have to approach every game with the same mentality,” said Keane. “I can’t be too focused on the Irish team until I get on that plane and meet with the guys. My focus is the Galaxy and as soon as I land in Dublin, my focus will be 100 percent with them.”
GALAXY STICKING WITH CENTERBACKS
While Chivas USA made a pair of deals on Thursday including one for Califf, Arena affirmed that the Galaxy had no interest in Califf’s services as a replacement for the injured Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo.
“We have two centerbacks coming back that are pretty good centerbacks,” said Arena. “The last thing we need is to fill the locker room with centerbacks. We have two good ones that hopefully are going to play this year.”
Since the start of the season, six players have started at centerback including Andrew Boyens, Tommy Meyer, David Junior Lopes, Brian Gaul, AJ DeLaGarza and Dan Keat.
Leonardo could be No. 7 sooner rathern than later, as he prepares to return to the lineup. On Thursday, Arena told reporters that the Brazilian defender could play in one of the club’s next three matches.
“Leonardo is real close [to returning],” said Arena.