Local rivalry reaches the status of a true Clasico

first_imgIf that’s what the Galaxy remember about the last meeting with their rivals down the hall three weeks ago, then Chivas remembers a blow that it considered below the belt. When Chivas players walked out of the tunnel before the game, they were greeted by taunts from the Riot Squad, the several hundred member-strong Galaxy fan club, which mocked the club’s Mexican heritage by donning sombreros. Then and afterward, several Chivas players were irate. For three years, executives with both teams have worked to stoke a rivalry. Now, it appears, no prodding is necessary. When Chivas and the Galaxy kick off tonight at 8 before an expected capacity crowd at Home Depot Center, it will mark a rivalry fitting the billing of SuperClasico. That’s due, in large part, to this season’s reversal of roles. Until recently, Chivas had played the patsy, winning just once in 11 games until its 3-0 thumping of the Galaxy on Aug. 24. SOCCER: Near-brawl in last meeting may come to be known as benchmark later. By Billy Witz STAFF WRITER When Chivas USA’s Jesse Marsch delivered a swift kick to the gut of David Beckham, it precipitated a dustup that left two players ejected – one for a head butt – and nearly touched off a full-scale brawl. Now, Chivas is among the hottest teams in MLS, having gone 6-1-2 in the last two months with a young, dynamic lineup. With a win, the Goats (12-6-4, 40 points) would capture the club’s first-ever trophy for taking the SuperClasico series and also jump over Houston into first place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Galaxy, beset by an overloaded schedule, a host of injuries, the David Beckham dramas and poor play, find themselves with the worst record in the league (4-11-5, 17 points). “To have rivalries, you have to have both teams winning – like the Dodgers-Giants, Red Sox-Yankees, U.S.-Mexico in soccer,” Galaxy forward Landon Donovan said. “You’ve had teams winning at different points. We’re envious of them. There’s a little animosity.” The flashpoint for it was last month’s Chivas victory, in which, just before halftime, Marsch kicked Beckham in the midsection as he was beginning a counter attack. Beckham, after being knocked to the turf, jumped up and got right in the face of Marsch, who didn’t take a single step backward. An instant later, players from both teams rushed in. Galaxy midfielder Kevin Harmse threw a punch at Marsch that missed, prompting Chivas defender Alex Zotinca to head butt Harmse in the chin, sending him to the turf. Harmse and Zotinca were ejected and neither will play tonight. Harmse injured his knee training with the Canadian national team this week and Zotinca is serving the last of his three-game suspension for the incident. The ejections proved pivotal. With both teams down to 10 players, the field opened up – favoring the speedier Chivas. And with the Galaxy’s best defensive midfielder out in Harmse, Chivas punched holes in the Galaxy defense and won in a rout. Still, several Galaxy players said they aren’t using Marsch’s kick as fodder for inspiration or retaliation. That, they said, comes from trying to keep their season alive. The Galaxy trail Chicago by 11 points for the final playoff spot with 10 games left. “We’re in a desperate situation,” Donovan said Wednesday, coming off the practice field. “Naturally, I don’t have to go yell at Jesse Marsch in the parking lot. I know tomorrow, when we get on the field, he’s going to bring it and I’m going to bring it.” Asked if he was sure he wouldn’t yell at Marsch in the parking lot, Donovan smiled. “If I see him,” he said, “I might kick his (behind).” The last few weeks have allowed some of the Chivas players to cool off also. When Chivas striker Maykel Galindo broke a scoreless tie early in the second half of that game, he trotted over to the corner flag in front of the Riot Squad and threw his arms wide open. This prompted a shower of streamers and several cups of beer. “It sort of ridicules us Mexicans,” said Chivas captain Claudio Suarez, one of two Mexicans on the team. “They’re making an insult of Mexicans.” Then the 37-year-old veteran and former Mexican national team captain smiled, acknowledging that he’s seen much worse. “I’m sort of accustomed to those sorts of things,” he said. “It shows the passion is growing. The fans defend their team. It creates a good atmosphere. As long as it doesn’t turn into violence as it happens in other countries, it’s good.” Then a gleam appeared in his eye. “That actually helped us on the field,” he said. “Instead of making our spirit go down, it actually increased it. Hopefully, (tonight) they can come out with something else and they can give us the same anger.” billy.witz@dailynews.com160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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