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SOCCER

Galaxy, Chivas USA are rivals, but friendly, too

L.A.'s pro soccer teams share a home field and, apparently, a lot of mutual admiration on eve of playoff opener.

November 01, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

The World Series might have shifted to Philadelphia, but as far as brotherly love is concerned Carson seems to have cornered the market, at least on the soccer front.

Today, Chivas USA and the Galaxy square off in a Major League Soccer playoff game that is the first in any professional sport to feature two teams from Los Angeles.

It would be natural if emotions were running high, if things were being said about the other team that normally might be left unsaid.

But that has not been the case. Over the last few days, reporters have sought in vain for bulletin board material, for an unwary quote that could spark even the semblance of a feud.

Is Chivas fuming under the yoke of an all-time 3-10-5 record against the Galaxy in MLS play? Is there an inferiority complex at work? Not a bit of it.

"The biggest game for this club is the Galaxy," said Chivas USA defender Carey Talley. "That's the team I want to play against, because of the pride of this club and what it would mean to beat these guys in any round of the playoffs."

Not much there to set tempers alight.

Does the Galaxy, older than Chivas USA by nine years and a two-time MLS champion, treat its Home Depot Center neighbor with disdain? Not at all.

"A lot of the guys we know well, we've played against in the league, so there's no irritation, there's none of that," said Galaxy forward Landon Donovan. "We enjoy the games, and they're more intense just because of the situation, but there's no hatred or ill will."

"We always say hello when we bump into each other," added Galaxy midfielder David Beckham.

"It's a mutually respectful relationship," Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said.

Perhaps real rivalries take longer to build than the mere five years that Chivas USA has existed. Perhaps there needs to be a history of on-field confrontations -- think Jesse Marsch versus Beckham in 2007 -- and games won and lost in dramat- ic fashion at the final whistle.

As things stand, it's all sweetness and light.

"In any sport -- Lakers-Clippers, Dodgers-Angels, Galaxy-Chivas -- any time you get one of those, it's an exciting series for the fans and for the players," said Chivas defender Jonathan Bornstein. "There's a lot of emotion."

Today's game is the first of a two-game, total-goals series, with the second game next Sunday at 4:30 p.m. The Galaxy, the "road" team today, has beaten Chivas twice this season, both by 1-0 scores; the other game ended in a 0-0 tie.

The Galaxy finished in first place in the Western Conference, while Chivas USA finished fourth, but only three points, or one game, separated them. Chivas (13-11-6) actually won more games than the Galaxy (12-6-12) while scoring more goals at home, 25 to 18, and allowing fewer, 14 to 17.

"If we keep playing the way we've been playing, eventually things will come our way," said Chivas USA Coach Preki.

This is the Galaxy's first playoff appearance since 2005. Chivas has been knocked out in the first round in each of the last three years.

Chivas knows it has to be aware of Donovan and Beckham, above all else.

"Landon is great on the counter, running at people, and obviously with Beckham's service they play great together," said Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton.

For the Galaxy, Chivas midfielder Sacha Kljestan is the danger.

"I think the engine of their team and really the guy who makes them go is Sacha," said Galaxy midfielder Chris Klein. "When he's been playing very well, they're a tough team to stop. So he's definitely a guy we're going to key on."

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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